How to be holy

BY SR HILDEGARD RYAN OSB

LECTIO DIVINA: Holy Reading

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012, is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B. 

Lectio: The Gospel is Mark 7:1-8, 14-15 and 21-23.

Meditatio: Some background to the text which will help us respond. This Gospel begins in the Old Testament. We remember that Moses (in Deuteronomy) had said: “…take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them…you must add nothing to what I command you, and take nothing from it…” 

However, the Scribes and Pharisees had added and added and added! Then they became obsessed with the additions, as is evident in this Gospel text: the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes, and washing of hands before eating and so on. These became more important than God, and God’s Law, and most of all God’s near-ness. 

And so, Jesus, a Jew and well-founded in the Old Testament Law, sees what is really happening and denounces their hypocrisy. Jesus asks for a change of heart, not the multiplication of customs, or the minutiae of law. Read the text again. Ponder on it before making your response. I share mine in Evangelizatio No. 1

EVANGELIZATIO – my lived response to the texts given to me by the Church for my “formation”. In responding to these texts I am listening with the ear of my heart, taking their riches into my life and changing all the time more and more into Christ.

I am responding to the word “hypocrisy”. Hypocrisy is in every walk of life. People love to quote the law, (as long as they don’t have to live it). 

Or, as St. Benedict says: “What they like they call holy.” We have a policy in our community that no rule ever takes the place of a loving action. If a sister needs my help, and it is a time of silence, I give that sister my help, and speak freely to her. 

I believe we must all be wary of becoming caught up in petty details that take the place of loving actions. Hypocrisy loves to quote the law, and do the opposite. Jesus was scathing of hypocrites. Of course, it was these same hypocrites (the Scribes and Pharisees), who often exempted themselves from the details of the Law, while imposing the Law on the widows and orphans and the sick and the poor. Jesus taught only one law: that of Gospel Love. 

Pope John XXIII wrote in his Journal of a Soul, in 1962: “The more mature I grow in years and experience the more I recognise that the surest way to make myself holy…lies in the constant effort to reduce everything, principles, aims, position, business, to the utmost simplicity and tranquillity; I must always take care to strip my vines of all useless foliage and spreading tendrils, and concentrate on what is truth, justice, and charity, above all charity. Any other way of behaving is nothing but affectation and self-assertion; it soon shows itself in its true colours and becomes a hindrance and a mockery.” Like Pope John XXIII, I have a choice between truth or hypocrisy. I pray that I will choose truth at all times.

Lectio Divina is a way of life, not a method of prayer. It is about reading (and listening), reflecting, praying in tune with the Holy Spirit within me, resting in God, responding in the way I live, and continually pondering on the Scriptures. The traditional Latin words for this way of prayer are: Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, Contemplatio, Evangelizatio and Ruminatio.

– Sr Hildegard Ryan OSB lives at Jamberoo Abbey

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