The Place of Rituals

16 July 2010 Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Isaiah 38: 1-6, 7-8, 21-22; Isaiah 38; Matthew 12, 1-8

It is a common impression that our Catholic faith is ritualistic. Our faith has revolved around praying the rosary, processions, expositions of the Blessed Sacrament, fiestas and novenas. It is bound by time, practiced regularly especially those with devotions to the Mother of Perpetual Help (Wednesdays), Sacred Heart (Fridays) or the communal worship on Sundays. These are not bad, but routine has compartmentalized our lives: the faith does not permeate all of our lives and has not been a leaven of transformation to the our world.

The concern of the Gospel today is the propriety of healing on a Sabbath. Jesus replies using a counter-question, regarding the case of rescuing an animal, a beast of burden, the source of income (Deut 22, 4). The Pharisees say that it is lawful and right to save an animal, how much more is it right to save another human being (v.12). In other words, why is rescuing our carabaos (our beast of burden) lawful, but feeding the hungry on a Sabbath unlawful?

So Jesus restores to health the withered hand of the man in the synagogue. We remember that God desires mercy much more than sacrifice. Therefore, good deeds override the Sabbath regulations.

Our experiences teaches us that rituals are always part of our lives. Our morning ritual is not just about personal hygiene, but it is also about charity. If we don’t bathe and brush our teeth, other people suffers from our putrid body odor. Our Sunday mass is done on the day where everyone is free to worship the Lord as a community. Proof: in the Middle East, Friday is a national holiday for worship, and thus, Catholics makes Friday their “Sunday.” The Church in these situations recognizes which is more important.

The Gospel puts rituals in its proper place. Jesus summarized moral living as loving God and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. And thus rituals are at the service of these commandments: just as worshipping the Lord on a Sunday intensifies our love for God, it also celebrates our love for each other and teaches us the proper and correct love for ourselves.

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