“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”
Our readings this Sunday remind us that we are called to live truthfully what we believe and to practice faithfully what we preach. Religious rites and rituals are meaningful to the extent they lead to action on behalf of the kingdom of God. That action manifests itself by incarnating God’s love, compassion, and justice in this world.
Moses, in the Book of Deuteronomy (4:1-2, 6-8), exhorts the Jewish people to observe the law he has set before them. In doing so, they will know life in its fulness, and the nations of the world will come to see their wisdom and intelligence.
In the Letter of James (1:17-18, 21-21, 27), the apostle makes clear that to observe the law is to act upon it. We are to be doers of the word, not only hearers. For to profess faith without action is to deceive oneself before God and humanity.
Finally, in the Gospel of Mark (7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23), Jesus criticizes the religious practices of his time that deformed the law by superimposing upon it human-made doctrines. Such faith can easily lead to self-righteousness, a false sense of one’s relationship with God, and the denigration of outsiders.
True faith is verifiable by its willingness to move beyond our churches to enter the suffering of others. There, it encounters the risen Christ who calls for followers to walk with him in solidarity among those whom society has left behind.
Let us honor God not only with our lips, but with our hearts, hands, and feet. It is then that the wisdom and intelligence of our ways will begin to transform the lives of others as we bear witness to the growing presence of the kingdom of God in this world.