Religion used to play a more prominent role in everyday life, for a person as an individual and for people as community. As we rode on the train of secularism, many new tracks appeared before us. Technological progress at high speed, coupled with adequate comfort from materialism, meant that many switched tracks leaving behind the heavier cargo of religion.
As religion chugged along the old track, to the eyes of some detractors it developed into religiosity, a compulsive and repetitive set of rituals. Most religions have ethics shaped from the wisdom of the religion to guide us to live daily life. Guides are found in laws and commandments, but we need wisdom to give flesh and spirit to these laws.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfil them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.” (Today’s Gospel)
The purpose is for each person to find the true meaning of life. Without this meaning, our life cannot be fulfilled. Every teaching of the Church leads us into this fulfilment. Every ritual and commandment we religiously follow must evolved into actions in daily life encapsulated in these four words, “Love God, love others”. Religion without action is philosophy without wisdom. Without the virtue of love, religion cannot be fulfilled.
“For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” People can be religious without fulfilling the religion.
I was at mass in Phnom Penh. I am familiar with rituals with candles. I am not so with the use of joss sticks. This is the inculturation of our Catholic faith. The ritual is visibly different, but it needs to be in order to speak the same language and drive the same wisdom for people who are different everywhere. The fulfilment of life for every person regardless of nationality or culture is the same, one constant: Love God, love others. Piety in worship must be transformed into holiness in life.
Religion can get back onto the train of modern lifestyles. But we must adapt as the world changes and we must hurry as the pace gathers. Gone are those days when religion is a knock on the door with the knocker asking, “Do you know Jesus?”. Today we won’t even open the door to strangers. Religion will only be fulfilled when it knocks on the door of the heart. A person can turn his back on religion, but no person can turn away from true love freely given.
We all have a purpose in life, but each discovering through a unique journey. At the junctions of choice, we remember today’s first reading, “If you wish, you can keep the commandments, to behave faithfully is within your power. He has set fire and water before you; put out your hand to whichever you prefer. Man has life and death before him; whichever a man likes better will be given him.”
And wisdom shares that true love is always forgiving, always waiting.
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time