Scripture Studies, September 2, 2018 Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

September 2, 2018 Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

This week we celebrate the Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. In the first reading, Moses exhorts the people, who are about to enter into the promised land, to cherish the Law. He speaks of the Law, not as a burden, but as a precious guide to the wisdom of God. How do I regard the call to holiness in my life? Do I see a burden or a call to joy and wisdom. The second reading touches on a central part of the message of the Letter of James. James holds that action must accompany conviction. For James, faith is very much a verb that we “do” not just a noun that we “have” Where do I hold my faith? Is it deep inside where it can not be seen or do I let it out into my actions where it can bring others to see the love of God? In the Gospel reading, Jesus calls on us to be sure that our way of doing things doesn’t get in the way of the mission He has given us. The bureaucracy, rules of behavior and even personal traditions that we use to serve the gospel can take on a life of their own and get in the way of living the gospel. Is it time for me to perform a reality-check to see if my own rules or personal traditions match the Gospel of Jesus?

First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8

1 “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. [3 You have seen with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal-peor: the LORD, your God, destroyed from your midst everyone that followed the Baal of Peor; 4 but you, who clung to the LORD, your God, are all alive today. 5 Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the LORD, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy.] 6 Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? 8 Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?

NOTES on First Reading:

* The portion of the text in square brackets is left out of the reading.

* 4:1 Hear ( sema) O Israel is a is a standard Deuteronomic beginning for a liturgical address. Laws or statutes referred to positive legal decrees. Ordinances or customs referred to judicial decisions based on case law. Deuteronomy portrays Moses primarily as a teacher.

* Observance of the law became a primary condition for maintaining possession of the land. Deuteronomy is the place in the Old Testament where thought first moves from “laws” to “the Law”.

* 4:2 The idea of not adding or subtracting anything is an indication of canonical status of a public document.

* 4:3-4 This refers to an incident related in Num 25:1-9. Verse 4 implies that the hearers are survivors of the incident at Peor.

* 4:6 Observance of the Law is to be the “wisdom and discernment” of Israel. It is to be the equivalent of the wisdom traditions of the other nations. In Sir 24 Torah is identified with wisdom.

* 4:7 The idea of the nearness of God is important to the theology of the book. This is a law book but it has the premise that God is known and approached through the Law.

Second Reading: James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

17 all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. 18 He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. [19 Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, 20 for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and] humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. 22 Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. [23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. 24 He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. 25 But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain.] 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

NOTES on Second Reading:

* The portion of the text in square brackets is left out of the reading.

* 1:17 This is based on a well known poetic proverb of the time.(“Every gift is good, and every present is perfect.”) It means something similar to our version, “It’s not the gift but the thought that counts.” A deeper meaning is added by James saying that the source of all created goodness is from above; The father of lights.But unlike the lights of heaven which are great gifts his goodness never changes with the seasons.

* 1:18 The freedom of the Divine initiative with which God gives birth to his children contrasts with the blind force of desire that gives birth to sin James 1:14-15.

* He gave birth is understood in the Old Testament context of Deut 32:18. It is understood in a Christian sense as in John 1:12-13 as is indicated by a comparison of verse 18 with 1 Peter 1:23 in which the sense is obviously Christian. However an allusion to creation may also be intended. Just as the first creation was accomplished through God’s word so the new creation is “by the word of truth”. This probably refers to the acceptance of the Gospel message.

* 1:19 These three admonitions are of a type that often occurs in the Old Testament (Sir 5:11-13). They will be developed in 1:22-25; 3:13-18; 1:20; 4:1-2. The reason for the last of the three is “the righteousness of God” as in Mat 5:20; Mat 6:33.

* 1:21 “Implanted word” is an inborn word which probably means the acceptance of the Christian faith at Baptism including the ethical demands involved.

* Use of “word” or “logos” reflects typical New Testament usage. It is God’s saving revelation, foreshadowed in the word given to the prophets and in the word that is a synonym for law (tora) but fully expressed only in Christ and His Gospel.

* 1:22 This verse summarizes the whole letter of James. It is similar to Rom 2:13. The general theme of a “religion of deed” is characteristic of James but also prominent in other New Testament writings such as Mat 7:24-27; Luke 8:21; Luke 11:28 . Old Testament background for this is in Deut 4:5-6; Deut 28:13-15; Ezek 33:31-32.

* 1:23 The mirror presents ideal conduct and so lets us see our shortcomings just as a mirror reveals blemishes and untidiness. But if the viewer of the mirror immediately forgets what he sees in the mirror he can’t fix the situation. So it is with a hearer who doesn’t do.

* 1:25 James will return to the theme of law again in James 2:8-12; 4:11. Use of “Perfect law of liberty” would seem to imply that James does not have in mind the ritual law of Moses. He seems to identify it with the “word” of previous verse. James lacks Paul’s distinction between the law and the gospel, showing a similarity to Mat 5:17-19. In fact the lack of any emphasis on fulfillment of ritual prescriptions and of rigid legalism would seem to indicate an author other than James the Just if indeed James the Just was as later tradition made him out to be.

* 1:26 In practical application, restraint in speech is mentioned in 1:19, and will be developed in 3:1-12 and 4:11

* Deceives himself is literally ” his heart” which is a common Hebraism.

* 1:27 Pure and undefiled are qualities that the Old Testament used in a ritual and cultic sense and are now applied to external works of charity and inner integrity. This is not meant as a complete treatment of religion but as an emphasis on certain aspects without which the practice of religion has no meaning. See Isa 58 ; Mat 23.

* God the Father had the title as Father of widows and orphans, the natural objects of charity in the community Psalm 67:6; Deut 27:19; Acts 6:1, Sir 4:10.

* World is used here to mean opposition to God as it is in Paul, 2 Peter,John and 1 John.

Gospel Reading: Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

1 Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. 3 (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. 4 And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles (and beds).) 5 So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” 6 He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ 8 You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” [9 He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ 11 Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘ (meaning, dedicated to God), 12 you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. 13 You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”] 14 He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. 15 Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” [16—- 17 When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. 18 He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 “But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles.] 21 From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. 23 All these evils come from within and they defile.”

NOTES on Gospel:

* The portion of the text in square brackets is left out of the reading.

* 7:1-5 Lev 11:1-47 defined what the clean foods and unclean foods were. During and after the Exile the rules about food and ritual cleanness became very important as a way for the people to develop and maintain a strong sense of identity and remain separate from other peoples in the area. These laws made eating with Gentiles very difficult but not initially impossible. New traditions developed over time that did make it impossible. Even many Jews did not follow some of these later rules. Jesus and the disciples ate with lax Jews.

* 7:6 Hypocrites originally meant answerer and then came to mean actor, one who partook of the question and answer of the stage. Eventually it came to mean one whose “answer” was a show.

* Verses 6-13 are still part of Jesus answer about hand washing.

* 7:8 See Isa 29:13 Jesus repeats the charges of the prophets against the people.

* 7:11-12 Scholars are hard pressed to find such a case in the Rabbinic Tradition. It is probably an extreme and isolated circumstance of Jesus day that may have been notorious as a scandal of the time. Jesus uses this currently notorious case as an example.

* 7:14 Verses 14-23 Disciples probably missed the point. See Acts 10:1-11:8. These are all basically rules of separation that ensured the survival of Israel as a separate people so the Messiah could be born from them. Now that the Messiah had come, they are to be abandoned in favor of the unity of Jesus.

* 7:15 See Lev 11:1-47; Deut 14:3-21 for a list of clean and unclean animals.

* 7:16 “Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear,” is omitted in the NAB and several other modern translations because it is lacking in some of the best Greek manuscripts and was probably transferred here by scribes from Mark 4:9,23.

* 7:19 Verse 19 is believed by many scholars to be a parenthetical remark or gloss.

* 7:20-23 See Mark 7:15.

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