Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

Curry, Stephen.jpg

Stephen M. Curry, O.S.A.
Saint Augustine Preparatory School
Richland, New Jersey

Dt 4:1-2, 6-8
Ps 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5
Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27
Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

There is a story about a young man named Jim who entered religious life. He lived in a monastery with six other classmates.

One of his classmates named John made a lot of noise to draw attention to himself. Everything that he opened, he slammed shut. If he opened a door, he slammed it shut. If he opened a window, he slammed it shut. If he opened a drawer, he slammed it shut. Hence, throughout the monastery, all that people heard daily was slam, slam, slam, slam, slam.

One day Jim spoke to one of the priests in the formation team and he expressed his concerns about John. He said that he was finding it difficult to pray and embrace the spiritual life of the monastery because his classmate John was making too much noise. He was getting very angry about it and he felt that John’s motive for making the noise was to draw attention to himself.

The priest responded to Jim by saying: “Psychology tells us that the very things that annoy us in other people are the very traits that we possess. Hence, let me ask you a question. Do you ever do things to draw attention to yourself?” Jim replied: “Yes.” The friar continued: “And when you draw attention to yourself in your own way, do you think that it annoys any of us?” Jim replied: “I don’t know.” The priest responded: “Yes, it does. However, we know that love of God and neighbor go together. If you want to grow in your relationship with God, then I suggest that you look beyond the parts of John that you get angry about and find the goodness of God that dwells within him.”

Jim took that priest’s advice. He made a concerted effort to see the goodness in John. In the end, the two of them became friends.

Seeing beyond the flaws in others in order to behold the sacredness of God that dwells within them is at the heart of today’s readings. Today’s Gospel talks about the scribes and Pharisees complaining because Jesus’ disciples were not following the traditional rules for purity by washing their hands before eating. Jesus challenged the scribes and Pharisees to reflect upon themselves to see if they ever did things to get others angry by disregarding God’s commandments because they were clinging to human tradition.

Instead of spending much energy on watching what others are doing, James’ letter says to be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is an invitation to care for others in their afflictions and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Seeing beyond the flaws in others in order to behold the sacredness of God that dwells in them is a theme that we are invited to apply to our own lives. We all have moments when we get angry by the actions of others. When this happens, let us make the inward journey and ask ourselves: “What are the motives behind the person’s actions that upsets me? Do I ever exhibit the same motives in my own life?” If my answer is “yes” then make it into a prayer. Pray to God by saying: “Lord, just as you love me for who I am when I act out my selfish motives, so too give me the grace to love others when they act out their motives. Let me see your holy presence that dwells in me so that I can also know and love your presence that dwells in others.”

This is the lesson that Jim learned in religious life. This is the heart of today’s readings. This is the message that we can integrate into our own lives as we strive to grow in our relationship with God by seeing the goodness of God in others.

And we can do all of this without slamming the door.