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22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Ages 6-9): Sanctifying

(Adults, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)

People are curious about Jesus. Wherever he goes, people gather around to listen to him. They watch him carefully. Some people are so drawn to Jesus that they follow and become his disciples. Others are not sure what to think. Perhaps Jesus is too holy to be real. No one can be that holy, right? Only God is so holy. They begin to watch his disciples, too, trying to see if there is something wrong here.

When the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 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.

We are living in a time of pandemic. We know how important it is to wash or hands before we eat. We wash down surfaces that might have the coronavirus on them. We can understand these particular Pharisees who wash everything. We know the disciples ought to wash their hands before they eat.

So the Pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

We notice, however, that the Pharisees mention defiled hands, not dirty hands. Unlike us, they are not concerned about getting sick. Like the word "dirty", "defiled" means unclean, but it is different. Defiled means no longer holy. These particular Pharisees are saying that the disciples are not washing to make themselves holy.

Photo by Billy Pasco on Unsplash

The Jewish people have been given a special task by God. They try to welcome God into every moment of every day. They make a point of asking God to sanctify each ordinary moment. Sanctifying is the opposite of defiling. Sanctifying means to make holy. When they wash their hands, their cups, their pots, their bronze kettles, they are taking the ordinary and offering it to God so that God may sanctify.

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

Jesus calls these particular Pharisees "hypocrites." A hypocrite is someone who says one thing but means another. Their words and their actions do not match. Their lips speak of holiness, but their hearts are not holy, their hearts are not near to God. Why? What is wrong with these Pharisees?

Many Pharisees offer each moment to God. Many Pharisees invite God in to sanctify the ordinary moments in their lives. Their eyes are on God, because it is God who sanctifies. But these Pharisees are concerned about the disciples' hands. These Pharisees are concerned that the disciples have not washed their hands to make them holy. Are their eyes on God? Who are they looking at?

Who are the disciples following? Who is near to them all the time? These particular Pharisees do not recognize the One who makes all things holy. They honour God with their lips, but their hearts are far from God. With their eyes watching the disciples' actions, they miss the action of God right there beside them.

Who would we want to be like? The Pharisees who offer each moment to God or the Pharisees who watch to make sure others are offering each moment to God? We know we want to be like the disciples, following so close to Jesus. We want our lips and our hearts, our words and our actions, to match.

There is a moment in the Mass when we show our desire to match--to be holy inside and out. Just before we listen to the Gospel, we use our thumb to trace the sign of the cross--Jesus' sign--on our forehead, on our lips, and over our heart.

Why on our foreheads? Why do we want Jesus' sign there? We know that our head is where our thoughts are. What are our thoughts like, when Jesus is so close to them? We invite him in to sanctify our thoughts.

Why on our lips? What kind of words do we speak, when Jesus is near? How do we sound to those around us--to our loved ones? To our enemies? We invite Jesus in, to sanctify our words.

Why over our hearts? What do we want Jesus' sign to do? We invite Jesus in, we offer him our hearts. We want him to sanctify all that we are.

Then we listen to the Word of God.

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