Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 2, 2018
Many years ago I took part in a group dynamics exercise. We were told to stand in a circle, join hands, and prevent Joe–outside the group–from breaking into the circle. We did that task well. So well that when Mary–also outside the circle–tried to break in, we kept her out too.
The group leader processed the experience for us, reminding us that he’d told us only to keep Joe out. The leader explained that human beings sometimes get so caught up in the details of a system of behavior that they forget its original purpose.
The same thing often can be said for religion. The laws and structures of our religious life–as noted in today’s first reading–are an important way we relate to God. But as Jesus points out in the Gospel, when human beings go beyond the original purpose and burden others with practices the law never intended, then the connection with God is severed. Lip service to external structures and laws can replace a commitment of the heart.
There is a place for law and for structure within our lives as Christians. But we must always keep the purpose in mind. If we center on the person of Jesus Christ and his law of love, we should have no trouble doing just that.