22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 29 August 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8; Responsorial: Psalm 15; II: James 1: 17-18, 21b-22, 27; Gospel: Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23
Our journey with the Holy Spirit in the Liturgy of the Word these past weeks has been a time to renew our faith and awareness of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. God has sought to open our hearts and eyes to the holy love of God truly present in the Body and Blood of Christ and hence in each other. As we now journey on, Christ is seeking to make us know that we are called to practice His Presence, not only before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, or in His sacred Word but in each step, each place God would lead us.
It is easy to be aware of the Presence of God when we are in church. Or, if not easy, it is understood we should be seeking and mindful of God’s Presence in our places and times of worship. But with the incarnation of Jesus, with His subsequent teachings and examples, we are now called, as His followers, to be practicing His Presence in every moment of our lives.
A young, disenchanted soldier, Nicholas Herman, entered a Carmelite Monastery in Paris. He lived a life (1614-1691) as a lay brother and took the name: Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. With no profound education, he served faithfully working in the kitchen and repairing the sandals of his brothers. But he also shared a deep and passionate love for God, whose Presence he learned to practice. Some years after his death some letters and sayings of Brother Lawrence were compiled into a little book of immense significance, “The Practice of the Presence of God.” This immense grace, the mindfulness of the Presence of Christ in the days and moments of our lives is a fruit of the readings of the Blessed Sacrament and our Bible readings today.
Our faith is a gift of great strength, beauty, and deep-rooted peace. As we follow, Christ crucified and risen from the dead, we are graced to grow in the beauty of holiness and joy of God’s eternal love. But if we look around our homes, our lives, we realize that sometimes that which we may cherish can become dusty, neglected even buried with the cares of life.
Both in our first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy and the New Testament epistle of James we are clearly reminded that we are to hear and follow, to be doers of the Word of God. We need to be attentive, listening for God’s Word, yes at church or in our times of devotion but in all the times and places of our life. Jesus in the Gospel reading is emphatic. If we are to be His disciples we cannot be ruled by human traditions or understandings. We must needs hear and live the Gospel message. We cannot allow the waste of this world to grow and flow from our hearts and lives. We must walk ever closer with Him who followed the way of the cross that His mercy, love and grace may be manifest, not just in pious words and places but in ministering to the real needs of the world in which we live. The practice of our faith, our love for God is needed in heart, home and in each task life brings.
The story is told that St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor of the Franciscan Order, was to be made a cardinal for his faith expressed in profound spiritual insights yet with deep practical relevance. The Papal Delegation from the Vatican came to his monastery to give him his galero, the red hat of the cardinals of his day. They found Bonaventure in the kitchen washing dishes. Aware of their mission Bonaventure asked that they wait for him outside until he had finished his kitchen chores. Upon greeting them outside he took his privileged hat and hung it on a tree while he visited the dignitaries. In reading the words of Bonaventure one can see that position, power, pride of place were of little significance to him. What mattered to St. Bonaventure was to live and practice the Presence of His Lord.
As it has been for all the saints so it is with all God’s people. We are called to be faithfully, humbly, yet dynamically practicing the Presence Of God. Our lives, in the midst of the holiest of places and moments, should be sharing Christ’s Presence, Promise, and Purposes. As the Hebrew people were called to enter and claim the promised land so we must enter and claim, following God’s Presence the promises of mercy, forgiveness and hope God would bring.
And our lives, in the midst of the most difficult of earthly places and moments must needs share God’s Presence that brings His peace, healing, and hope. We live in times and places of great conflict, struggle and need. It would be very easy to become disciples of despair and anxiety, of fear and hate. But our God reigns victorious. We are called to walk in His Presence and be servants of the hope and love found, with Him, at the holy cross. We are called to be a people dedicated and practicing the eternal justice, the social justice found in God’s Kingdom. As the refrain from our responsorial psalm shares: “One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.”
Whether our skies be stormy and our path be difficult we can always know and practice the Presence of God.