22nd Sunday – Year B
The real faith: acts of charity and internal purity
(Dt. 4:1ff; Jas.1:17ff. Mk. 7:1ff.)
For St. James, first bishop of Jerusalem, according to the teachings of the Lord Jesus, “religion” cannot be confined to a proud profession of faith, regarded to be “in order” with the Almighty, without the horizontal dimension of charity. There is no real “piety” without having “pity” for the poor, the oppressed, the widows and the orphans. In Latin, the one word “pietas” means piety and pity.
The apostle James unequivocally declared that faith without charity and purity is like a body without a spirit. He echoed the teachings of the Master: the letter of the law remains dead with spirit. Jesus cited the divine word as proclaimed by Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me!” For, as “Hypocrisy is an homage that vice pays to virtue” (La Rochefoucauld), legalism, puritanism and ritualism are the homage that impiety pays to devotion. However, one can never cheat God. At most, one can succeed at cheating people for a time, and, worse, cheat oneself, to end in believing, as in cast iron, one’s own lies, intrigues and fallacies!
This term reflects the Greek “παραδοσις”. The New Testament uses it at times to indicate the Jewish traditions (and here the occidental non-Catholic translate it correctly), and at others to indicate the apostolic Christian traditions (such as in 1 Co. 11:2; 2 Th. 14-15; 3:6), here, many non-Catholic and non-Orthodox translations replace the word with “teachings or doctrines”, simply because these designations reject the Traditions and the traditions of the Church. Thus, it becomes easy to negate and disown the Tradition and the Church traditions particularly the oral, since according to these traditions they do not figure anywhere in the biblical texts. Thanks be to God the ecumenical traditions attempt to correct these errors.
“All that you do is to teach human precepts!”
Having, unfortunately, omitted all biblical bases of the apostolic and Christian traditions, it becomes very easy to throw an Isaian accusation at the Church alleging that all it does is to teach human precepts that do not exist in the Bible, even in contradiction to them.
Not being able to answer this accusation in detail over here, we would like to bring to mind that the Church and the oral tradition existed at least sixty years prior to the complete text of the New Testament (considering that the Apocalypse was written after the year 90 A.D.)
For further clarity and objectivity, it is useful to go back to the first centuries of the Church, particularly to the documents, the monuments, the mosaics, the baptisteries, the inscriptions and other historical sources to discover therein a number of dogmas and practices, such as the Marian devotion (the “χαιρε Μαρια” or “Khaire Maria” or “Hail Mary” inscriptions of the second century found under the Cave of the Annunciation in Nazareth), the baptism of children, the sacred icons and images, the Roman primacy, the ecclesiastic hierarchy – for instance the probable tombstone of a “deacon of the Probatic pool in Jerusalem) etc…
Scrutinizing the Scriptures and the history of the Church as well as its Magisterium, let us animate our faith by our charity, the observance of our traditions and precepts with a spirit of love and humility, as St. Paul wrote: “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision prevails over anything, but only faith which works through charity” (Ga. 5:6).
Fr. Peter Madros