|One of many ways to live out the 'Tradition'|
(Twenty-second Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on August 30, 2015 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Mark 7: 1-15.)
[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-second Sunday 2015]
Make sure your traditions don’t violate the “Tradition”.
That’s the simple message of today’s homily: Make sure your traditions don’t violate the Tradition (Tradition there has a capital T, and it means “God’s revealed Truth.”) Traditions, customs, and religious practices are all acceptable, as long as they do not contradict or undermine the teaching of Scripture and the Church.
Which brings us to today’s Gospel text from Mark 7. Here Jesus encounters the Pharisees, who criticize his disciples for not following one of their “traditions” (small t) of ritual purification before eating. Jesus uses the occasion to “let them have it” (as the old saying goes), pointing out both their hypocrisy and their warped philosophy. Now I’m not one who normally criticizes the folks who put together the Lectionary, but I will today. If you notice, the reference at the beginning of the Gospel text says Mark, chapter 7, verses 1-8 and verses 14-15. Amazingly, they left out verses 9-13, which are extremely important! Now since most of you don’t have your Bibles with you, I’ll read the missing verses.
After saying, “You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition,” Jesus adds, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban,” (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”
The 4th commandment (“Honor your father and your mother”) was part of God’s revealed Truth (in other words, it was part of the Tradition with a capital T). But the Pharisees were violating that precept of the Tradition, by supporting this tradition (small t)—this custom—of allowing children to “dedicate” money to God, and neglect their parents in the process.
Make sure your traditions don’t violate the “Tradition”.
I mention this today because we live in a world where it’s very easy for us to become just like these Pharisees if we’re not extremely careful.
For example: The second commandment says, “Do not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.” That precept, like the 4th commandment and the other commandments of the Decalogue, is part of the Tradition (capital T). Now I know people (perhaps you do as well) who never, ever swear or take the Lord’s name in vain—unless they’re at work or with a particular group of their friends. Why only in those places? Well simply because in those locations everyone around them is using bad language. Consequently, they end up joining in. You see, at certain places of employment and in certain social settings using vulgar language has become a time-honored “tradition” (small t). You’re not “one of the gang” or “one of the boys” unless every third word that comes out of your mouth has four letters in it. That’s a perfect example of people laying aside the Tradition (God’s revealed Truth) for the sake of a foul-mouthed tradition.
Or how about the 3rd commandment: “Keep holy the Lord’s day”? I know of entire families who give up Mass for the summer each and every year. It’s become a tradition with them. They say they have too many other important things to do. We’ll be welcoming those people back with us in the next few weeks. The Tradition (capital T) goes out the window for the sake of a tradition (small t) of laziness!
Or take the 5th commandment: “Thou shalt not kill.” Since 1973, we’ve had a tradition of baby killing in this country, upheld by law. I don’t think I need to go into great detail as to how that sordid tradition (small t) violates the Tradition (capital T) of Jesus Christ.
And now the people of Planned Parenthood want to add a new tradition to that 40-year-old one by selling the body parts of aborted babies for profit.
Homosexual activity is clearly forbidden by the sixth commandment—as are fornication and adultery. But that didn’t stop our Supreme Court from establishing a new tradition (small t), whereby marriage has been completely redefined to include same-sex couples. And so with one stroke of the pen they put in place a new “tradition” which clearly violates the 2,000-year-old Tradition of Christianity.
The Lord calls us today to be different! The Lord wants all of us to establish good, noble, loving traditions in our lives—traditions which will uphold and promote the authentic Tradition of Jesus Christ.
Now some of you have already done this—and are doing it—although you might not realize it. For example, it’s become a “tradition” (has it not?) for many of you on the first weekend of each month to bring food with you to church: food that will be given to the needy of our area. That’s a tradition (small t) by which you are living out the Tradition (capital T) of the Gospel which says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Some of you have similar “traditions” at Christmas and Thanksgiving whereby you reach out to the poor and less fortunate. Praise God.
Some among us pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, which has special prayers and Scripture readings for various times of the day. That’s a tradition (small t) by which you are living out the Tradition (capital T), which tells us to “pray always.”
Many of you (hopefully all of you) say Grace before meals—even meals that you take out in restaurants! That’s a tradition whereby you live out the Tradition, which tells us to “give thanks always.”
Some of you have a tradition of monthly or even weekly Confession. Great! That’s an extremely important way to live out the Tradition, which tells us to “repent” of our sins! That command is found throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Certain Christians think that Jesus attacked the Pharisees simply because they had “traditions”—as if all traditions are evil. That’s not true! Everybody has traditions (small t); that is to say, everybody has customs and activities which are a routine part of their lives. The key question is: What kind of traditions are they? Are they good or are they bad? In other words, are our traditions violating the Tradition and leading us to hell, or are they upholding the Tradition and leading us a little bit closer to heaven?
Let’s pray today that all of our personal traditions in this life will keep us where we should always want to be: on the road to God’s eternal kingdom.