Actions speak louder than our words

By: By Sharon Priester

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time/Aug. 30

Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8; Psalm 15:2-3,3-4,4-5; James 1:17-18,21b-22,27; Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

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I am sure we have all heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” I remember my parents saying those words. It took a while for me to understand what they meant. I know now what I say or do tells others about who I am, what I believe and what is important to me. Certainly, the readings this week demonstrate that whatever a person or community does or says, informs and influences the people around them.

As I read the first reading from Deuteronomy, I could hear Moses, like my parents, telling the Israelites, as they journeyed toward the promised land God has given them, that their “actions speak louder than words.” He reminds them to continue to observe carefully God’s commandments. By doing this, others will recognize them as God’s chosen people, a very wise and intelligent nation whose God is close at all times, ready to listen and help them whenever they call upon Him.

In this week’s Gospel, the Pharisees and scribes, seeing many people around Jesus and His disciples, gathered to see what was going on. They noticed that Jesus and the disciples did not clean their hands before they ate, going against the traditions that had been passed down from earlier generations.

Wanting to find charges of unlawful behavior against Jesus and the disciples, they asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” (Mark 7:5). Jesus, knowing what they were trying to do, responded, “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.” (Mark 7:7) Rather than following God’s commandments, the Pharisees and scribes focused on their human traditions.

Jesus didn’t stop there. He said, “Nothing that enters one from the outside can defile that person.” (Mark 7:15) Instead, what defiles comes from within them — “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.” (Mark 7:21) The scribes and Pharisees are so caught up in adhering to their traditions that they are blind to the word of God. Are we blind, too?

WELCOMING THE WORD
The second reading this week is from James. He is addressing the early Christians, those not totally transformed by the teaching of Christ. He reminds them that God is the source of all good. God chose to give them new life, by the word of truth — the Gospel, the good news preached by Christ. If they listen and practice this word of truth, it will lead them to a life of love, peace and humility and save their souls.

We, too, are called to accept the “word” and welcome it into our lives. Specifically, we are to “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” (James 1:22) Hearers hear, but they don’t respond. Take action. Care for others. Let this spring from your heart, from the love you have for God and others. Keep yourself unstained, undefiled. Live your faith. Devote yourself to helping those in need.

Will “you be one who does justice, thinks the truth in his heart, slanders not with his tongue, harms not his fellow man, lends not his money as usury?” (Psalm 15:2-5)

Remember: “Preach the Gospel at all times!! When necessary use words.” (St. Francis of Assisi)

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SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.

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