On a first reading of Sunday’s Gospel a person could get caught up in details – washing hands, washing cups, jugs, etc. These were the things the Pharisees did for ritual purification. The ordinary people didn’t follow all the details of ritual cleaning. But the Pharisees thought that Jesus and his followers should.
What does that have to do with us today? After reflecting on the gospel and the other two reading for this coming Sunday, the question seemed to arise; what is at the heart of rules, of commandments? Why do we do what we do? Surely we have moved on from the days of detailed rubrics that our founding congregations once observed.
But what are the statues of our day? How can we be as James writes, “doers of the word and not hearers only”? Why do what we do.
For the most part we are probably pretty obedient to the rules of our community, the laws of our country, the commandments of God. We probably don’t stop and think why we do what we do. Periodically it’s good to take some time to reflect where our heart is. We might say we do what we do because we desire to love God and love our neighbor. But upon deeper reflection we might realize that we visit that homebound person more because we like her and enjoy being with her. But we don’t spend much time with another person because we disagree on politics. Or what about my good intention to write to my congress people about that issue OPPeace suggested. I might say I’ll do it tomorrow – and tomorrow never comes for that project.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend about her earlier civil disobedience experience. She described that what they did was in the midst of prayer and a promise of non-violence. What struck me about her sharing was she felt that the experience was “Gospel Motivated”.
Now, I don’t feel called to things like civil disobedience. Most of what we do is not momentous. Our lives are mostly made up of daily, seemingly inconsequential, tasks and responsibilities. It might be good to stop before we head out for our daily ministry and remind ourselves why we are doing what we are doing – whether momentous or routine. The more we remind ourselves that we are called to be “Gospel motivated”, the better we will be able to serve those we meet.