Ordinary 22

The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
2018 – Cycle B
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; Psalm 15; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

 

Thomas (Becket)

Is there no enduring crown to be won?

Tempter

Yes, Thomas, yes; you have thought of that too.
What can compare with glory of Saints
Dwelling forever in presence of God?
What earthly glory, of king or emperor,
What earthly pride, that is not poverty
Compared with richness of heavenly grandeur?
Seek the way of martyrdom, make yourself the lowest
On earth, to be high in heaven.

Thomas

No! Who are you, tempting with my own desires?

Tempter

I offer what you desire.  You have often dreamt them.

Unlike Jesus in the desert, T. S. Eliot portrays Thomas Becket, in his verse play Murder in the Cathedral, struggling with a fourth tempter. struggling with a fourth tempter. “Who are you?” he asks.  In deed, who is this fourth tempter?  The first three tempters offered Jesus and Thomas various forms of real, earthly power: pleasure, advancement and praise.  But this fourth tempter offers Thomas his own desires.  Desires that arise from within Thomas.  More than in just passing, has he not thought of martyrdom?  Did Archbishop Oscar Romero?

What are the real desires of any of us?

Have we ever honestly confronted them?

One of the consistent threads in the teaching of Jesus that continues to underlie the moral teaching tradition of the Catholic Church is the focus on the importance of the inner intention of an individual’s daily actions.  Jesus stresses a person’s mind, heart and intention as the source of evil.  Evil/Sin does not arise from outside of us but from within us.  As the comedian, Flip Wilson would say, “The Devil made me do it!”  The devil makes us do nothing.  Jesus teaches, “All the evils come from within a person and they defile”.  And it does not just affect us it affects the community.  Sin is always communal.

While surfing, I recently caught a moment of ‘The Bachlorette’ in which a football player of a guy was confessing that he was a virgin.  I was astounded at his honesty but I also heard in my mind the laughter and giggles throughout the nation.  We just presume people, especially are youth, are sexually active.  Chastity is the realization that our human bodies are as sacred as our souls and so are the bodies of other people.  Unchastity is having the intention to use someone else for our momentary pleasure.  Is that not the same with adultery?  Why do we use the phrase “making love” when it is the last thing we are doing.  We are treating another person as an object for our benefit and allowing ourselves to be used in turn.  Consider the same act between a committed husband and wife.  The intention causes the same act to be a giving of each other to the spouse rather than a using of another person.

Consider greed, also known as avarice, literally “a desire for more”.  It underpins the entire advertising industry and much of our desires.  Is it not what our culture celebrates at Christmas under the guise of a Christian veneer?  The poverty of God in Christ has been replaced by the desire for more.

Pride like greed is striking because they are not referring primarily to a person’s behaviour but to an attitude.  Attitudes that Jesus teaches arise in the heart.  And life is marked by our attitudes and values.  Need I say anything more than offer the patriotic example of Senator John McCain where values and life coincided?

Out of what values do you and I live out our Christianity?  Are you and I greedy?  Are you filled with pride, a disease of the spirit, reflecting resistance to God as well as contempt for other people?

The Pharisees speak of hand washing which was rightly concerned about obedience to the will of God.  You will shortly see me carry out that ancient action in the Mass.  The action of the washing of hands is accompanied by the prayer which sets the action in a context: “Lord, wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins.”   As for the Pharisees, the washing of hands continues to be in the context of the call to holiness.

Christianity insists on the importance of doing the right thing for the right reason when performing good deeds.  So what do you consider to be the greatest temptation against oneself and God?

Eliot’s Thomas answers that after a deep struggle within himself.

Thomas

Is there no way, in my soul’s sickness
Does not lead to damnation in pride?

Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

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