Commentary: 22nd Sunday Year B

Commentaries Used:
Deuteronomy 4:1–2, 6–8
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“On the plains of Moab, God charges Moses, now close to death, once more to proclaim the Law which he received through the revelation on Mount Sinai… Moses is addressing a new generation of Israelites…By having the Law restated again, Yahweh is reminding them that His covenant with Israel is made with all generations (29:13), both present and future: it is an everlasting covenant. This proclamation could almost be called an encyclical of Pope Moses – there is no new revelation, only restatement with, in some cases, a relaxation of the requirements. ” (SCBS).

Moses spoke to the people; he said: 1 “So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2 You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you. 6 “You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!’ 7 For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? 8 And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?”

“The first reading depicts the incomparable superiority of the divine command over all human wisdom” – the changing laws of great nations vs. the immutable laws of Israel… “for it originates in the eternally valid vitality of the lawgiving God himself” (Balthasar 232).

Responsorial Psalm
R. The just will live in the presence of the Lord.
O Lord, who may dwell on your holy hill? 2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; 3 who do not slander with their tongue. R.
Those who do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbours; 4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honour those who fear the Lord. R.
Those who stand by their oath even to their hurt; 5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved. R.
James 1:17–18, 21b–22, 27

“Our reading for today comments on our birth in God’s word and appeals for us to be doers of the word” (SCBS).

17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfilment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. 21 Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

“In sending his Son to men the Father has surpassed the goodness of his lawgiving. As the second reading says, his “perfect gift” is to have “brought us to birth through the Word of truth”, to have made us into “the first fruits of his creatures.” His Word is no longer merely spoken as instruction for us, rather, it is now “rooted in the heart.” Having become so much internalized, more than ever it must not only be “heard” but acted out, in order that the living Word of the Father might truly bear divine fruit worthy of God” (Balthasar 232).

Mark 7:1–8, 14–15, 21–23

“After a five-week detour on the scenic route (the Gospel of John and Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse) we return to the Gospel of Mark, rejoining it immediately after Jesus’ walking on water” (SCBS).

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1 When the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles. 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

“Although they are speaking of the disciples, the attack is directed at Jesus. They are right. It is Jesus who is breaking down that blind obedience to traditions while creating around him a space for freedom where what matters is to love” (Pagola 117).

6 Jesus said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” 14 Then Jesus called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. 21 “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, 22 avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 “All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

“This is an answer to those who consider that evil thoughts are simply injected by the devil and that they do not spring from our own will. He can add strength to our bad thoughts and inflame them, but he cannot originate them” [Saint Bede The Venerable (ca. A.D. 725), Homilies On The Gospels, 2].

“The evil that comes from man’s inner heart, whether that evil remains a thought or becomes an act, defiles the man. And the evil is all the more evil when it comes out of a heart in which God’s living, incarnate Word has taken root as law. On the other hand, whatever originates from or in inspired by the Word of God living in our hearts is part of what Paul calls a “reasonable” or “meaningful worship of God” (Rom 12:1), whether it is spoken or done with direct reference to God or as part of everyday human existence” (Balthasar 233).

“The more exact the laws, the greater the temptation to manipulate them to evade their purpose” (Wansbrough).

“A person’s true qualities are seen by that person’s actions; their true intentions and character, what comes from the heart, becomes visible in their words and actions” (Wansbrough).

“Resolution: I will set aside some time today and ask Christ to help me identify any attachments to sin in my heart. I will write them down and look for concrete ways to purify my heart from them” (Regnum Christi).

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