Reflection: 5th Tuesday in Ordinary Time

Mass: Tuesday, February 9, 2010
First Reading: 1 Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30
Responsorial: Psalm 84:3, 4, 5 and 10, 11
Gospel: Mk 7:1-13

One way that I was taught to pray with scripture was to imagine myself in the story and find a character or group with whom I could identify.

In today’s two readings, there are two central characters cast in the roles of good and bad: Solomon, who behaves as the protagonist in the first reading; and the Pharisees and scribes, cast as the antagonists in Mark’s Gospel.

Of course, we easily can see that if the Pharisees and scribes were only open to Jesus’ teachings, all would be well!

While we would like to align ourselves with Solomon, it should not be too much of a stretch to imagine that, at some point in their lives, the Pharisees and scribes were also like Solomon—one of the “good guys.” After all, as leaders of a worship community, they must have earned that honor somehow.

So what happened to them? How did they lose focus in living the true nature of their faith in favor of practicing rote traditions? When did following established customs become more important than an openness to discerning new insights? When did a single interpretation of expressing faith become “baptized” as the one, correct and absolute standard by which others are judged?

How ironic is it that these questions are posed by the one person in community who has been described as “someone whose schedule you can set your clocks by.” I have to admit that I prefer to have my schedule set a specific way to provide structure and perceived sense of efficiency in my life.

After all, having a set way of doing things helps me to settle, feel efficient and become comfortable. It’s efficient and works—why try a different way?

Although this attitude isn’t necessarily a bad thing, this mindset offers little room for flexibility, openness to variety and new ideas. My years in formation and spiritual direction have taught me to try and temper my strict adherence to established ways with a disposition of openness; in other words, while diligence and efficiency are great, don’t be closed to discerning the variety of other ways that God can be active in life…and I’ll honestly admit, that is the one area that I’ve struggled with and will have to continue working on over the years.

So, when Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes, I easily can imagine that Jesus reminds me that, sometimes, my own personal actions do not match with the words that I speak.

Fortunately, the “basics” our lives as Marianist religious offer us many ways to grow in that area: centeredness in prayer; listening to God’s response as spoken through the voices of others, particularly our brothers in community; understanding how God is working through our strengths and weaknesses; and how our shared life calls us to be accountable to one another in being faithful to our vocation.

Brothers, we are given the gift of another new day and opportunity to live those values and put them into action as concrete expressions of our faith. Let us strive to make the words we speak in chapel match up with our lived actions so that we continue to grow personally and spiritually, and as community.

May the eucharist that we receive this morning renew our commitment to the vocation that we are called to live as Marianists.

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