Pastoral Letter for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Reflection for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Inner Conviction (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Staff’, 2008) By Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, D.D.

When I was still a seminarian, my spiritual director shared that there are three types of persons in the spiritual life. The first type is a person of whim. This person is like a little child governed by what he wants. What he sees, he wants to get. When he doesn‘t get what he desires, he bursts into childish tantrums. The second type is a person of law and tradition. He follows everything by the book. He is a law-abiding citizen. He looks down on violators of the law. He is a fanatic follower of tradition. The third type is a person of inner conviction. He does things not out of childish want or enforced law but because of an inner disposition. He knows what is truly right from what is wrong. He makes an honest examination of conscience on the actions he does in his life. He relies heavily on an informed and formed conscience that makes him authentically discern whether his actions are sinful or not.

The Scribes and Pharisees were persons of law and tradition. They looked down on others who did not follow the letter of the law and fulfilled their ritualistic traditions. They were rigid followers of the law or the Hebrew Torah. It was clear to them that if they violated what was written in the law, they sinned. All they considered was the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law. They failed to go beyond what God really demanded of them. They also clung to their strict rituals like their daily ablutions. They made sure that they washed themselves clean from the outside. They were keen in purifying themselves like washing their hands before they ate. They protected themselves from being contaminated with what they judged as unclean around them. However, they did not have the inner disposition to critically examine themselves and admit that they failed to follow the spirit of God‘s law and go beyond their superficial traditions. For this reason, Jesus criticized their hypocrisy, saying, “You disregard God‘s commandment but cling to human tradition…. How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition!” (Mark 7:8-9)

Jesus taught his disciples to make a deeper examination of conscience when following God‘s law and fulfilling any Jewish tradition. He made them realize that growing angry at someone, looking lustfully at a woman and swearing were already sinful compared to the obvious sins of murder, adultery and making a false oath. Jesus formed his disciples to critique their actions so as to admit and accept that they may already commit wrong and sinful actions that lead to graver sins. He also instructed them that what made people really unclean was not what comes from outside but from inside a person. They are one‘s impure thoughts and evil desires coming from within that make someone unholy. Thus, He told them: “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” (Mark 7:14-15)

Are we like the Pharisees and scribes? Do we have the inner conviction to admit what is wrong and do what is right?

One key to become a person of inner conviction is to take God‘s love seriously. Knowing that God loves us so much, we will try our best not to offend Him. All our actions will be motivated by God‘s love. Deep inside us, we will know whether what we have done glorified God or not.

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