February 10, 2015

The Gospel Today

Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin

Mark 7: 1-13

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
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.)
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?”
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;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”’
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things.”

Reflection (Sem. Jul Elden Nuique):

When God created the world, His only intention was to show His love, most especially to man, to whom all creation was entrusted.  God made sure that all things He created was good.  It was in this context, the certainty of the goodness of God’s creation, that our Lord Jesus said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

In anything we say or do, it must be founded upon the unconditional and unlimited love that God has for us.  Ignatius Loyola writes in his Spiritual Exercises, “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God.”  Our Heavenly Father has created us out of love, once we feel the stirrings of His love for us in our hearts, we know that we are on our way to a life free from slavery to worldliness, if only we stay the course of obedience and love towards Him.

Right after the Christmas break, we had our community evaluation.  I was labeled as someone who neither spoke nor acted in accordance with his level of formation.  It was a tremendously heartbreaking moment for me.  For the entire preceding part of the school year, no one approached me for any complaint, then, almost suddenly, I received an evaluation that I was a failure.  The day after the event, I almost could not get out of bed, much less join in the community activities.  I woke up earlier than usual and, feeling very broken and dejected, I turned to God in prayer.  After a long string of lamentation, He answered me with, “I love you.”  I kept silent then and waited for what He would say next.  He told me, “The community needs you to play the organ for the Mass.”  With that, I went out, took a bath, got dressed, and went to the chapel to play the organ for the Holy Eucharist.  After the Mass, I felt lost once more, He said, “The community needs you as Kitchen Supervisor during breakfast.”  With that, I went down to the refectory and did my best to help with the food preparations.  After breakfast, one of the formators talked to my batch mates and I.  He scolded us because one of us kept falling asleep during prayers and Masses.  God told me, “Say something.”  I tried to defend my batch mate with what I knew about his sleepiness and the steps he took to counter it.  However, it was to no avail, because he admitted to the formator that he repeatedly fell asleep during prayers and Masses.  I went back to my room feeling more disconsolate than before.  God told me, “You need to go to class now.”  Even with leaden feet and a heavier heart, I gathered my things and went to class.  That entire day passed in that manner: God carrying me every step of the way, God encouraging me from moment to moment.  It was one of the greatest moments of our relationship.  I felt very special, very valued by Him, even if I was going through one of the worst moments of my life in the seminary.  God loves me like my father, mother, brother, and lover combined – yet even that image does not suffice for the love that I felt, and continue to feel, from Him.

His love for me is truly indescribable.  It wells from deep within my heart, fully encompassing my core, overflowing from every orifice, and covering my body with shudders and bringing me to lethargy and tears.  At the same time, I know that it does not come from me but from Someone else.  It originates from an Other Being, a Loving Being.  The love I feel makes me feel priceless, incomparable to no other creature, loved without beginning or end.

How can I repay such a love from such a Lover?

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