Readings at Mass
|Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8 ©|
|Psalm||Psalm 14:2-5 ©|
|James 1:17-18,21-22,27 ©|
|Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23 ©|
TRANSCRIPT 22nd Sunday
So I want to reflect with you on this theme, okay? Because laws, for the most part, in our culture, we have a love/hate relationship with the law. Okay, let’s just put it this way. In our society, if you’re in the city or you’re in the town and we had no by-laws whatsoever, no ordinances, no laws, it’d be chaotic, okay? So if I have garbage to picked up, okay, now we hate laws, okay, because to a certain degree, they restrict our freedom, they restrict our license to do whatever we want and live our life how we want. So at first, we don’t like when it restricts our freedom. But woe to anyone, as soon as your neighbor puts his garbage on your law or crosses over your property line, also now we want the laws, we want laws for other people, we just don’t want them for ourselves, right? We want to restrict those other guys but we don’t want to restrict ourselves. So you see in the city the necessity for certain legislation, certain laws to govern human interaction because ultimately, I might only need my garbage on Wednesday picked up, the neighbor needs it on Friday, another guy needs it on Monday, so we sacrifice certain aspects of our own license, our own freedom for the greater good. And at the end of the day, we’re more free to be a good citizen, a good neighbor, because of those laws. So that’s the good place of law.
But there’s also the other side of things, too, where laws can actually restrict our freedom, can restrict us of choosing what is good. So I’m going to walk with you through this, and there’s a couple of analogies I’m going to build on, okay? One is a sports analogy and one is one of children at play, okay? So the first sports analogy I’m going to give, it’s not going to be the Riders or the football because I don’t want to leave you depressed and bemoaning walking out of here. So let’s talk about the Blue Jays, let’s talk about baseball, okay? Because it’s hot right now, the Jays are up by four, five-nothing already, they’re doing awesome, okay? We’re going to have the World Series again. Last time they were this good, I was in grade one or kindergarten, when they won the World Series. They haven’t been in the playoffs since. So it’s great news.
So baseball, there’s thousands of rules, hundreds and thousands of rules. There’s whole book that the umpires carry, that managers and players, they memorize these rules. Each one of those rules has a reason why it’s there, okay? There’s rules in Major League Baseball because of Pete Rose or because of Ty Cobb beating people up as he runs around the bases. There’s rules of what’s in and what’s out, what’s fair and foul, what’s a strike, what’s a ball and all those rules are there for a reason. And if you were take one of them out of the context or you don’t care about baseball, these laws, these rules, seem silly. But if you love baseball, you love the rules because it gives structure and discipline to the game. So, like I said, when they’re interiorized, you can be a better baseball player. You know the rules but you’re not thinking about them constantly.
Let me give an example. Josh Donaldson, great, great offensive player and the Blue Jays had good offense all year. But now they have a few guys that actually know how to play defense, they know how to field, okay? And a guy like Donaldson or Tulowitzki, okay, they’re great defensive players. As little children, they would’ve learned the basic rules and as time goes, their parents or their coaches, they would’ve trained them more and more rules, given them both the structure of the game, of how the game works, but also the discipline about how you play the game, okay? So, for example, if Donaldson’s on third and a guy’s got a left-handed or right-handed bat, he’ll stand in different place depending on who’s on base, he’ll be in a different location. If the ball’s hit, immediately he knows how to ground it, and in what way, and to throw it to what position. All the fielders, all the good players know those rules, they know those disciplines. Do you think in the fraction of a second, when that ball is hit, they’re thinking about the ten thousand rules of baseball? No. They interiorize the rules through practice, through discipline since a young age, so much so that they are actually more free now to be the best baseball player they can be.
This is true also in religious life, in spirituality. All the teachings of the Church, the teachings that come from God, the teachings that are defended by the Church and also, some of the traditions that the Church disciplines, they say this is important for Catholics to do, all those things are like all those rules that go into a game. Okay? They help us, God willing, if you’re not focused just on the rule itself, but focused on the reason why it’s there, they help us to grow in our relationship of God. So to be a good baseball player, you need to know those rules, those ordinances, those disciplines. Well, to be a saint, you also need to be disciplined, you have to understand what is right, what is wrong and the boundaries of our game, okay?
Another analogy I’ll give, because our culture, we’re very anti-authoritarian, anti-legal, unless, of course, it affects us and then we want the police to be there to protect us against the crazy guy or whatever. We don’t like law until we actually need the law and then we love it and we blame people in authority, we have a love/hate relationship there. And the reality is, we think also with children, with young people, they must be the most anti-rule, anti-law people in the world, and they’re not, they’re not. Okay? The silly parents, they say, “Well, I’m not going to discipline our kids,” or, “We don’t want to punish them,” and it has the guise, the modern mindset, the guise that somehow that’s a loving thing to do for your children. No. Having no boundaries, no rules is the opposite of love for a child. You need to give structure, not because you don’t love them, because you love them.
The loving Father, I have had good examples this summer, I’ve been up at the lake and I get to be there with my nephews, I got four nephews, six down to one years old, okay? Four nephews. And they’re great, they play, they can go for 18 hours of a day, play around on the beach or in the backyard and you’d think that they don’t like rules and structure. They make up rules and structure for themselves, for their own play. Okay? So for example, they’re playing cops and robbers, Nathan’s the oldest, he’s six, he’ll be like, “Those two trees over there, Sam,” Sam’s two. Sam’s, “Yeah, yeah.” He doesn’t know much, okay? “Those two trees, that’s the prison. Okay? If we put you there, you can’t leave those trees.” Sam knows that. Elijah knows that, Nathan, they know the rules, they all consent to it and then they’re free to enter into the play, whatever game it is. When we were kids, I played on recess, I grew up on a park and our school was right there, Lakeview Park and we used to play mini-sticks or baseball outside or soccer. We’d use the grass, we’d use the trees or the bush to be the boundaries of the game. Everyone consented to the rules and therefore, we ultimately enjoyed the game more. Okay? So that’s the point of good law, good discipline, it allows for a freer exercise of the game or, in our case, our life we live, the spiritual life. We need those rules.
Now, the other extreme…well, one more note on that, okay? Don’t you hate, if you’ve ever been over and you’re playing cards, you’re playing Kaiser, or Hearts, or whist, or one of those games and you have someone say, “Well, let’s not count points, okay? Let’s not nitpick about the rules, let’s just play.” I hate those people, I hate that, okay? I can’t stand it, let’s have tea and biscuits and talk about the weather and swathing in the fields, okay? If you’re going to play Kaiser, you play Kaiser. If you’re going to play hockey or mini-sticks or you’re going to play street hockey, play hockey. But there’s a certain structure where if you remove those rules, it’s not what it’s supposed to be and it’s not even fun, okay? You know the Mom that comes out, “Oh just play for fun, don’t have all those-” No, that’s silly, Mom, you don’t know hockey, okay? There’s a rule, if you yell, “Car!” you stop, okay? The goalie walks out and you don’t take a shot at the net. Right? You would beat that kid up, okay? There’s a written structure that if we all partake in it, we enjoy the game more, okay? And sometimes it requires great imagination.
Okay, that’s the positive side and we have a culture that wants to pretend, even in the spiritual life it’s, “Oh, just be free, worship God how you want, go worship the tree in your backyard.” No, okay? When that happens, it’s chaos and ultimately, we’re left adrift in this world. We need certain aspects of discipline and rules and it helps us to be a better Christian, okay? In the Church, we always emphasize that, we’re not obsessed about the laws but the laws point to a deeper disposition that helps us to become saints and all the saints of our church emphasize this, they’re disciplined men and women. Not perfect, but understand that there’s rituals, there’s prayers that help foster a deep relationship with Christ.
Now, that’s the good side. Rules, laws are important. The other side, the other extreme, okay? The Kaiser analogy again. We’ve all played Kaiser or if you’ve played Kaiser, you’ve all met the Kaiser Nazi, I’m going to call them, okay? The one that is the anal, retentive person that knows every rule and every trick that needs to be played and if you don’t do it, they yell at you and they have this obsession about the structure and the rules of the game. Or we could get a really, really nerdy baseball person, the statistician and almost they take the fun out of the game itself. They’re so rigid on laws that they actually destroy the purpose of the law in the first place. Those are the Pharisees, those are the people Jesus confronts today. The image I’ll give you that I heard, it’s like the Medieval Knights, we started off, we were wearing, you were just wearing cloth, okay? And then they get someone with an ax hits you and you die and you realize, “Huh, there’s this metal stuff, let’s put some chain mail on, okay?” That’s why a priest…it’s supposed to be battle armament gear, that’s why it looks like chain mail, okay? That’s what the vestments are, they’re from Roman times.
Okay, you started to put chain mail, then the guy developed, the Englishmen, longbowmen, loved these great big longbows that the arrows could pierce the armor. They started to put on thicker armor, metal plates and all that stuff, right? And they kept adding things and eventually knights got good at beating up on Saracens and people and rescuing princesses and they would hack where the joints are vulnerable in the armor. So they started to put more metal plating on, okay? So each one of those innovations was good, it was trying to help the knight to be the best knight. Okay? Each one of those pieces of protective gear. Think of them like a law, like an ordinance. They were necessary but eventually you get to the point of the High Middle Ages where you have these guys that have so much gear, you have five squires to dress them, you have so much metal that they couldn’t even move. If you’ve ever seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights when the soldiers come out and they’re like ching, ching, ching, ching and they can’t move, they can’t even more their arms to fight. And Robin Hood just comes and knocks them over and like dominoes, they all fall. Okay?
That’s sometimes what happens sometimes with laws, with religion within the Church but at the time of the Pharisees, it was excessive. You lose the mobility to achieve what the purpose of the original law was in the first place, to love God, to worship God. The knight loses the purpose to beat up the bad guys, or attack the Saracen, or rescue the princess, they can’t be a good soldier anymore, they can’t move their arms anymore, okay? And so what happens is that Jesus comes on the scene and he’s saying that these things you’ve piled on, this chain mail, this metal, it’s restricting you to the whole heart of the law. What is the heart of the law? I’d rather say who is the heart of the law? Christ Jesus. He is the Word made flesh, the Word of the logos in Greek but it’s the Torah, the law inscribed in flesh.
So as the old law, like Moses, the law was inscribed on tablets, I’ve shared that with you. Now as the prophets had longed for, they’d longed that the law of God, the promises, the words of God would be inscribed in the human heart and this happens with Christ, where the law is made flesh and dwells among us. And He comes now and points us back to the heart of the law and he purifies our hearts. He reminds us that it’s not that stuff on the outside that makes us unholy, it’s when we have a corrupt and divided heart that evil comes out from there. You asked that as we end here, what’s the way in which we keep our hearts close to the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we may be faithful disciples like this.
How can we become saints? We need to draw close to that beating heart of our Savior. I just went to visit Father Collin in Cudworth, he’s out there now, and beneath the altar, they have this beautiful altarpiece of The Last Supper. And you remember the story. Saint John is reclined at the chest of Jesus, and imagine John, one of the closest disciples of Jesus and he can hear the beating heart of Christ Jesus. We need to do that, that’s how we keep our hearts in beat with our Lord. That’s how we’re made clean, that’s how we purify that innermost stony heart to be sprinkled with clean water. And at times, we really need also to go to the sacrament of confession, to sprinkle clean water, to bring us out from that rigid heart. Okay?
When we come to the Mass, that’s what we do. We come close to the beating heart of our Savior. He consoles us, he feeds us, he disciplines us in the things that matter to his heavenly father, the laws that are actually from God, not from human innovation. That’s why we come, okay? When the Church says you must come to Mass on Sundays, it’s the equivalent of me saying to my little nephew Nathan, who’s a good lead for his brothers, “Do not go past the driveway onto the street.” They can go and they can watch for cars but Sam wants to follow, he wants to go that way, too, and he runs out in the street. Imagine what my heart would feel if I’m watching those kids and Sam was hit. The laws we give, the laws God gives to us are to protect us, to keep us in his love and care. They’re not laws in and of themselves, they’re for the love of God, our father, for us.
So try to be faithful to those teachings of the Church. We are required to come to the Mass so when you go back home, be faithful to that. It’s for your own good to come to the Eucharist, it feeds you, it gives you strength for all the challenges of the day. Know that God loves you, that’s why we say this, that’s why I say this. We need to trust in the teachings about the fondness of Father and draw close to him in the Eucharist. He will stay up our hearts, he will enliven us, he’ll give us the gift of himself so that we may also love, unlevered, with our whole heart.
Pogues: The Cadillac stood by the house and the yanks they were within, and the tinker boys they hissed advice, “Hot-wire her with a pin.” When we turned and shook as we had a look in the room where the dead men lay, so big Jim Dwyer made his last trip to the shores where his father’s laid.