Too many of us cling to handed down values and beliefs that, upon reflection through the lens of the Gospel, are contrary to the will of God.
We accept that capitalism is the best economic system when, left unchecked, it leads to scandalous gaps in wealth. A fraction of a percentage of people controls enormous amounts money while billions cling to life day-to-day due to insufficient income and over 30,000 children starve to death daily.
We accept our nation spending our taxes on more weapons than all the money spent on guns, bombs, tanks, rockets, fighter jets, bombers, armed ships, armies, navies, and missiles of all other nations combined.
We accept some of us living in luxury homes with people-less bedrooms while others live under expressways, in tents, in ditches, and in rat-infested alleys.
We accept premier mental and physical health care for some while others are denied minimum care or go bankrupt trying to pay medical bills.
We accept our rapidly warming planet being destroyed by floods, storms, desertification, and toxins while we continue to spew carbon into the atmosphere with our cars, homes, manufacturing, farming, and extravagant lifestyles.
We accept refugees and immigrants escaping violence, drugs, and poverty being denied entrance to the wealthiest nation in human history out of fear that “our American way of life” might be threatened.
We accept racially and financially segregated neighborhoods, schools, and churches despite the reality that poor folks and people of color living apart have higher rates of illness, homelessness, crime, and abbreviated lives.
The readings today are penetrating. In the First Book of Kings, Solomon pleads with God: “May your eyes watch night and day over this temple, the place where you have decreed you shall be honored; may you heed the prayer which, I, your servant, offer in this place.”
We Christians know our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We too plead with God to watch night and day over our temples, the places where God has decreed to be honored.
If we believe each of us is the Holy Spirit’s temple, treating one another as sacred means critiquing so much we accept as the norm.
Perhaps this is what Pope Francis is encouraging in the synodal method to address the crises of our day. Each of us, as temples of the Spirit, have unique life experiences and perspectives. Instead of a top-down problem-solving method, he wants us to come together in our parishes, communities, states, and nations to focus on one another, to truly love and listen to one another, and to understand how the Spirit is moving us to build a compassionate, just, non-violent world where all of life can flourish.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asking the established authorities of his time to critique old assumptions about ritual and traditions. “You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.” Their rigid rituals even lead to neglecting their own needy parents.
“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.”
Listening to the stirrings of the Spirit living in each of us and sharing our most precious longings and griefs leads us to be partners with Christ in healing our troubled world, even if it means challenging our most prized values and norms.
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.