Dear Followers of Jesus,
We listen to Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 in today’s Mass. This text invites us to look within to see how we live and how we follow Jesus. The externals of life do not defile. What comes from within, defiles. This is an incredibly challenging text because religion can easily just be lived externally. We can keep rules, but never be changed by the rule. We can learn formulas and rituals, but never take them to heart. We can read the gospel, but never change our actions or the way we relate to God or one another.
Faith must touch the heart. Living our lives in Christ Jesus is not a rule, but a relationship with him. Reading the gospels are not just a piety, but a way of life that is extremely challenging. One of the most challenging things in my priesthood is to reveal to people that faith must be lived from the inside out. There are no rules that will make us Christian unless we have the heartfelt desire to live what we teach, to practice what we preach, and to become what we believe. Living life, all of it, from the heart, is a practice that takes us into genuine conversion. This is the gift of Christ Jesus in our lives. This is the belief that must sink in our daily actions, our conscience, our ways of life and how we see the world.
I am often tempted to keep Jesus at arm’s length. It is easier to see his words only on a page and never have the courage to incorporate them into my life. It is easier to waste my time on living on the surface of life and not to invite my Savior into my heart. It is easier to spout out what others should do and close the door on him to my actions. It is easier to learn about Jesus, and then refuse to know him! It is easier to read books about prayer, but never pray! It is easier to memorize Psalm 23 about the Shepherd, but never know the Shepherd in the intimacy of my heart.
Ongoing conversion in the Church is not a matter of externals. When we live from only external realities, faith is sure to dry up. Faith must cost us something. The cross is not just a piece of wood; it is an action, a deep source of conversion and change, and most people find it difficult to be inconvenienced by any hardship. Taking faith seriously means real change of lifestyle. It means reflecting seriously on how we view our neighbor. It means we put our lives on the line for the poor, the handicapped, the hopeless and the depressed. When we can view faith from the heart, we can live in Christ and the possibilities of life are endless. Christ can use us to speak boldly about love, compassion, and peace, and not just speak about these things as issues, but to live out these commands in our daily lives. Faith makes a difference if we let it make a difference within us.
One of the obstacles today is that we have a phone in our hand for most of the day. Though we possess great benefits at our fingertips, there are also many obstacles to living our true selves. We learn things about people instantly. There is no time to think for ourselves, to sort through the consequences of gossip, ongoing hateful opinions of people, and the flinging of gossip across the nation. Living a life where the heart speaks truth is covered over by our addiction to instant gratification, loneliness, and thinking that other people hold the truth more than it resides with our human souls. These externals are harmful to us, to our relationship with Jesus Christ, and our faith communities. We must be able to sit alone and ponder life, to pray through issues and the consequences of our actions, to befriend silence and deep prayer, all of which if taken seriously and in faith, can change us all for the good. Life truly lived from the heart opens up eternal life in Christ Jesus, all for his glory and for the benefit of the world.
Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from the outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile…”
God give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor