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22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept.

2, 2012 (Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark7:1-8, 1415, 21-23) You do this and Ill do that is an expression we all know well. When found in the Scriptures, especially when it comes to observing the statutes and decrees of the Law of the Lord, it appears that those who observe all these commandments can force the hand of the Lord. Here the command is to observe what I, the Lord, command, neither adding to it nor subtracting from what I command. The adding to will become an issue in the Gospel reading for this Sunday. Often in the U.S. when a Supreme Court nominee is being vetted, the question arises what the nominees view of the Constitution is and whether this or that law would violate the original intention of the framers of the Constitution. Arguments run this way and that about whether this law or that is faithful to the Constitution. Now people will begin to argue whether there can be a legal prohibition on the possession of assault rifles in the hands of individuals in light of the most recent attack in Colorado. The argument will turn on the original doctrine of the right to keep and bear arms. Of course the statute does not say all arms so the arguments will be interesting. When Deuteronomy says not to add to or subtract from what the Lord commands, it leads us to wonder what we are supposed to do with the many laws which apply to sacrifice in the Temple, when the Temple no longer exists. One can hardly observe a commandment that revolves around the type of animal that may or may not be sacrificed when animals are no longer sacrificed. What complicates this even more for Christians is that we consider Christ Jesus to have been the one perfect sacrifice offered to God. Since nothing more perfect can be sacrificed, it negates the idea of offering anything else. We read in the letter of James: every perfect gift is from above. In this way Christians gradually parted

ways with the command not to add to nor subtract from based on historical change. The Gospel issue involves ritual purity laws and the interpretations of those laws which had the force of law among the Pharisees and their followers. The accusation of the Pharisees in their encounter with Jesus in this scene is that his disciples do not observe their customs, not that Jesus ignores them, whether he did or not. Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands? Jesus calls them hypocrites (literally play actors in Greek), quotes Isaiah and then levels his main critique: You disregard Gods commandment, but cling to human tradition. Of course, Jesus never answers their question about why his disciples ignore the tradition of the elders. Jesus defends his disciples by criticizing their critics. In verses missing from Sundays selection, Jesus explains how they disregard Gods commandment (verses 9-13). There will probably always be tension between tradition and law and here Jesus opts for law over tradition. What Moses wrote is binding, not what Pharisees (or anyone else) say he wrote. If the Christian is ordered and directed in all things by the law of love (of God and of neighbor) then every action he or she performs must be guided by that love. No tradition, however well-intentioned, can replace or supersede that law of love. Catholics need only hearken back to the old days of meatless Fridays. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. Fr. Lawrence Hummer