FR WILLIAM'S HOMILY
Year B 2021
We start off our readings with a few verses from Deuteronomy. Moses instructs the people to observe the commandments of the Lord, also known as the Law. To provide a little more incentive, he says that others will see your wisdom and understanding if you obey the Law. Moses knows that following the Law can truly change a person if it pierces beyond just a surface level.
‘Torah’, which is the Hebrew word we translate into ‘Law’, falls somewhat short as a translation. Law denotes a legal system to observe, but the Jewish people understood the Torah as a ‘light’ that shines forth, leading and guiding them. Observance of the Law was not seen as following an oppressive ‘set of rules, but as a virtuous and purifying venture.
We see in our Gospel Jesus challenging the customs and practices that were additional extras but emphasised in a way that strayed from its original intent. Their intention may have been good, but their focus on the ritualistic practice blinded them to the actual work that needed to be done internally – a conversion of heart.
When Jesus speaks to the people, he starts off by saying ‘Listen’ and then speaks to the heart of the situation. The things that come from within reveal more about the person than those that are on the exterior. Rather than relying on the observance of a practice of human origin, Jesus challenges the crowds to observe the internal movements of a heavenly origin. God created us, and we were formed with an in-built God radar, for it was God who knit you in your mother’s womb (Ps 139:13).
Jesus’ instruction to listen was more than just a passing comment, but a nugget of treasure disguised in plain sight. Listening, with God in mind, is not sitting down and waiting to hear something audibly. Listening is finding the nuggets of God hidden in plain sight. St Ignatius of Loyola knew of this listening. He designed the examen as a way of tuning into the movements of God.
The examen begins with thanks to God for the day. After having thanked God, we then invite the Holy Spirit to guide us through the day. We replay our day with the Holy Spirit. We examine with a focus on where we felt the good spirit leading us and where the bad spirit may have been leading us. In the end, you submit the exploration to God as an offering with St Ignatius’ Suscipe prayer.
When we listen, not just audibly, but examining our lives for hints of God, we begin to listen with our hearts. God speaks to us all the time, and the listening disciple is in tune with God’s voice. God’s language is silence and, in the silence, we unearth our hidden treasures.
In James’ letter, which serves as an exhortation, it says, ‘accept and submit to the word that has been planted in you.’ We are God’s handiwork, knit with love, time and careful consideration. During our creation, God planted a word deep within us that came to life as God breathed on our ancestors Adam and Eve. St James invites us to get in tune with that word planted in the gardens of our hearts.
Perhaps this week, we might take some time to examine our lives in prayer. Spend some time speaking God’s language of silence. May we find the treasure hidden right before us in our days and learn to see the heart of the situation through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.