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Aug 28, 2015 Written by 

22nd Sunday in ordinary time Year B (30th August, 2015) Be the first to comment!

Theme: The Law of life

Law is essentially a good to be valued. Laws, honestly established, properly understood, carefully observed and equitably upheld function as a safeguard which protect each member of the human community. Laws provide that necessary structure which fosters the growth and development of individuals within their respective societies. Our Hebrew brothers and sisters in the faith refer to the law which gives guidance and direction to their lives as Torah. A more comprehensive term than law, Torah means instruction/teaching and is regarded as revelation from God. Torah prescribes a way of life lived in accord with the daily call of God.

To study Torah is to know God; to know God is to have life. Among the many parables and homilies of the rabbis, there is one prayer which expresses these beliefs most beautifully: ‘Blessed is God who has created us for glory and has given us Torah and thus has planted everlasting life in our midst.’ The faith which so valued the Torah and gave voice to this prayer is also expressed in today’s first reading from Deuteronomy. Faithfulness to Torah was understood as the pathway to life and a means of closeness to God. We need to return to this truth and live.

First reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8

What is Law?  Law is the witness and external deposit of our moral life. Its history is the history of the moral development of the race. In addition to being the gauge and history of the moral development of the people, Deuteronomy regarded the Torah as a gift from God that set Israel apart from the other nations. Whereas the law codes of other nations functioned as necessary safeguards of individual rights and as a means to redress wrong, Israel understood the Torah as a communication from God which imparted favor and blessings.

A source of wisdom and strength, the Torah was thought to bestow life and an identity to those who heeded its words. As is indicated in today’s first reading, the statutes and decrees of the law were regarded as the terms of Israel’s covenantal relationship with God. To keep Torah was to keep close company with the Creator of the universe. Adherence to the law was closely related to the gift of the land, the possession of which transformed the loosely knit tribal amphictyony into a nation with considerable political and economic clout.

Due to its fundamental legal focus, Israel interpreted its political successes as well as its pitfalls and failures as functionally and proportionately related to the faithful observance or not of the Torah. Raised from the level of mere obedience to civil ordinances, to the level of religious and ethical response, to live the Torah was equivalent to believing and trusting in God. In order to encourage his contemporaries to remain faithful to the law, Deuteronomy cited several possible motivating factors namely: 1) fullness of life; that you may live. 2) the land; take possession of the land. 3) the gift of wisdom will give evidence of your wisdom. 4) nearness to God will make you prosper. cf. Deuteronomy 4:1, 6-7. Faithful observance of the law was considered a means of intimate union with God, who would remain so close as to be able to hear every prayer of the people.

I want you to notice the reference to the gods of other nations in verse seven. The suggestion that other peoples were attended by, and prayed to gods other than Yahweh, underscores the antiquity of this particular text. The reference to other gods is representative of a period which predated the age of the classical prophets who helped Israel to enunciate its faith in the one and only God. You also need to observe this command that “nothing should be added to or subtracted from the law” cf. Deuteronomy 4:2. Such prohibitions were common and can be found in other legal documents of the ancient world, e.g. the Law Code of Hammurabi. Because Israel valued the law as the revelation of God’s will, it was inconceivable that any human person could improve upon God’s gift. We can say therefore that this reading was chosen to underline the distinction between the commandments of God and the traditions of humankind. Suffice it to say, Deuteronomy has prepared the way for Jesus who will lead us out of the dark and tangled web of casuistry into the bold and simple light of the truth.

Second reading: James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27

Today, and for the next four weeks, our mentor during the second reading will be James. Of the five men named James in the bible; James, the brother of Jesus has been traditionally credited with the document that bears his name. However, there are several factors to note; a) he identifies himself only as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” James 1:1. b) the letter is written in excellent Greek c) with practical and paranetic in tone and substance, James reads more like a sermon than a letter d) it was aimed at averting an abstract and inauthentic expression of Christian faith e) those who have been privileged to hear God’s word are to let its power take root and then live and act by virtue of that power.

Only listening to the word of God and not acting upon it is to deceive oneself. The person who is a hearer but not a doer of the word is like someone who looks into a mirror and then goes off and promptly forgets the face he/she has seen. Such is the person who sees the smuts which disfigure his face, the disheveled hair and then omits doing anything about it. While listening to the word of God a person is challenged to see who he/she is and who he/she ought to be.

To see what is wrong and to do nothing is like hearing the word and not cooperate with its transforming power. With dual emphasis on hearing and doing, the ever-practical James reminds us that what is heard in the holy place must be lived in every other place. All of us who have accepted Christ as the promised messiah ought to understand that the term has a more encompassing significance. The word of God includes not only the law and the prophets but also revelation which is Jesus Christ. Therefore, as we welcome the word, let us also welcome the person and mission of Jesus. Through Jesus, the incarnate word, the saving power of God is at work in us. Through Jesus, we are able to look into the mirror with clarity of vision that will enable us to recognize who we are and to do what is necessary to become all that God intends.

Gospel: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Although the Halakah/Oral law was described by the Jews as a fence/wall around the Torah, designed to preserve and protect, it had become a virtual barrier and a burden which obscured God’s gift of the law and weighed heavily upon the hearts of the people. By the time of Jesus’ ministry the Oral Law had become so detailed and cumbersome that ordinary people could not comprehend its complexities; their only recourse was to consult the scribes, experts in the law, who were able to guide others through the legal labyrinth. At issue in today’s Gospel is the principle of clean and unclean which is at the root of Jewish preoccupation with ritual purification.

To this effect, the Oral Law had developed definite and rigid rules, not in the interest of hygienic cleanliness but for the sake of ritual or ceremonial purity. For example, hands were to be washed before every meal and between courses in a specific manner. 1) the hands were brushed clean of any sand or soil. The water for washing was reserved in special stone jars so that it also was ceremonially pure. With fingertips pointing upward, water was poured over the hands until it ran down to the wrists. Even the amount of water was specified, that is, a quantity equal to one and one half egg shells full. With hands still wet, one hand washed the other but since this action made the water unclean, more water was poured on the hands with fingertips pointing downward. To fail in any part of this ritual was to be unclean in the sight of God. It was for this reason that the Pharisees and Scribes cited the disciples of Jesus for not washing their hands before eating cf. Mark 7:5.

At this point it should be noted that the Oral Law required such hand washing only of priests in Jesus’ day. Therefore the accusation against the disciples may be a reflection of the experience of the Marcan Church in the 60s AD. Because contact with gentiles who were deemed unclean was inevitable, especially outside Israel; the rules for ritual ablution were extended to lay people. Jesus, for his part, cut through the ‘legalese’ of his critics and spoke to the very heart of the matter. Purity or holiness would no longer be a matter of soap and water but of a lived faith which responds to God’s word and cooperates with God’s forgiving, cleansing grace.

Quoting the prophet Isaiah 29:13; Jesus called upon his audience to move beyond hypocrisy which pays lip service but hides a sinful devious heart behind the impeccably washed hands. Jesus rejected the Oral Law inasmuch as it had succeeded in overshadowing God’s commands. Jesus’ argument is remarkably similar to that of Hebrews 9-10. Like the Hebrews, Jesus showed that legal discrimination between clean and unclean is incapable of effecting moral purity. Jesus annulled the concept of cultic cleansing because he was bringing into being another and far more efficacious means of attaining holiness. Instead, Jesus prefaced his new teaching, ‘hear me’; this Shema or call to listen and attend, is reminiscent of the manner in which people were called to hear and obey the law of God. As this gospel is read in our midst today, Jesus’ challenge to hear and listen, and thus to become pure and holy is renewed.


Unfortunately, those who interpret and reinforce laws sometimes stray far from the simple truths they are meant to reveal and protect. A rabbi working at Hebrew University in Jerusalem offers this example: One afternoon a student approached a professor asking that he put his signature on a letter of recommendation. But it is the Sabbath, said the teacher, I cannot sign my name because the Talmud/interpretation of Torah, including legal precedents, guiding principles and personal insights, spanning a period of nearly one thousand years; asserts that writing two words in succession is work and to do so on the Sabbath is to break the Law.

Disappointed, the student objected, citing the fact that the professor often gathered students into his study on the Sabbath. As they discussed one subject after another, the professor would climb a stepladder to retrieve a heavy book from his shelves, bring it down, open it, read a relevant passage and then climb up the ladder to repeat the process with another book and another and another. When asked about this apparent contradiction, the professor explained that the Talmud says nothing about climbing a stepladder to take books from shelves even if this vigorous effort causes one to perspire. Ironically such actions do not constitute a legal infraction, but to write two words in succession is a breach of the law!

Today we need to learn and accept that the Law of God is life for us. This will make our faith grow because words will march the action that originate from us. For this to happen, we need to guard ourselves against hypocrisy. If we accept to be burdened by the sheer immensity of the law, it is easy to lose sight of the essentials. Jesus, through his words and works is calling us to return to simplicity, authenticity and balance. His invitation is renewed in our midst today.

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1999 Last modified on Friday, 28 August 2015 15:49
Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo

Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo is a Comboni Missionary Priest. He holds a PhD in Moral Theology from Academia Alphonsiana Lateran University Rome. Currently he is the Assistant Parish Priest Our Lady of Africa Mbuya- Kampala and Secretary Missionary Animation Comboni Missionaries Uganda. For the last twenty years he has worked as missionary in Kenya where he served in various capacities as National Youth Chaplain, Secretary of National Lay Apostolate, Secretary and Director Missionary Animation, Parish Priest Holy Trinity Kariobangi, Director of Radio Waumini Kenya, Program presenter of Know Your Faith Vatican Radio, Staff writer with National Mirror and New People Magazine, Theologian of Kenya Episcopal Conference, Dean of Eastland’s, Visiting Lecturer on Ethics, Social Doctrine to various Universities, Board Member various Colleges and Secondary Schools, member of College of Consultors Archdiocese of Nairobi, Theologian Delegate to the Second Africa Synod on Reconciliation, Justice and Peace and Synod on New Evangelization for transmission of Christian faith.

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Welcome to Our Lady of Africa Parish Mbuya. We are located near Bugolobi Township in Nakawa Division. It is about 5 kms from the City Centre of Kampala. Mbuya Catholic Parish is a vibrant and diverse community made up of people from different parts of Uganda. We welcome you warmly and joyfully.

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