Worship right, in spirit and truth
MARK 7:1–8, 14–15, 21–23
By Juliana Valdez
In today’s gospel, the Pharisees and Scribes, detractors of Jesus, are pointing out to Him, the fact that His disciples are not adhering to the rules and tradition of the elders, accusing them of being disrespectful.
But Jesus’ response to them, quoting Isaiah the prophet, puts into perspective the whole issue of adhering to the traditions as opposed to being obedient to the commandments of God: “The people honour me only with lip service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations. You put aside the commandments of God to cling to human traditions.”
The Holy Roman Catholic Church is one rich in teachings and traditions, all geared towards making our worship of Almighty God reverent, spirit filled and meaningful.
Sadly, for many who practise the faith, these traditions are done without the above-stated elements thus rendering them as routine and empty rituals. It begs the questions then, when we genuflect, make the sign of the cross, bow during prayers (the ‘Angelus’ and the ‘Creed’ to name two), our responses during Mass and other devotions, singing the hymns, etc., do we do it with the understanding and passion of people to whom worship of God is integral to our very existence? Or do we fall in the category of those whom Jesus accused of offering Him worthless worship?
Now, because of the pandemic and the closure of the churches, we have to worship at home, utilising the many programmes being aired on Trinity TV and EWTN, allowing us to participate in Holy Mass, assisting us in our prayers, praise and worship, ensuring that our relationship with God is maintained.
This time also, we have the opportunity for introspection, deep soul searching, reflection and meditation. What do we have within our hearts to ensure that what comes out does not, as Jesus said, make us unclean?
So we cry out in the words of the hymn writer, “Search me O God, and know my heart today. Try me O Saviour, know my thoughts I pray. See if there be, some wicked way in me. Cleanse me from every sin and set me free.”
This freedom helps us to worship right, in spirit and in truth.
Can we see ourselves praying this hymn every day, asking God for the grace to acknowledge our sinfulness and to cleanse us from them? In this way, we can ensure what comes out from our hearts would be worthy praise, pleasing to God.
Jesus stated that because of our ‘lip service’ worship, our hearts are far from Him. To improve our worship, and safeguard against sinful hearts, we pray for hearts like Jesus’ heart, filled with mercy, forgiveness, compassion and love. So again, we pray the hymn, “Change my heart, O God, make it ever true, change my heart O God, may I be like You!”
To facilitate the change, we invite Jesus into our hearts. In His Word we are told if we abide in Him, He will abide in us, making His home in us, “Into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today, come in to stay, come into my heart Lord Jesus.”
We do not want our hearts to be far away from Jesus. We do not want to offer Him worship that is worthless. We do not want to focus on the human regulations while ignoring the commandments of God, our rules for Christian living. Most of all, what do we want? We want what comes out of our hearts to be right and pleasing to Almighty God.
Dear Jesus, cleanse, purify and sanctify our hearts, that we may draw closer to You.
Our hearts desire is to worship You in spirit and in truth. Search us Lord, and cleanse us from every sin that will impede our relationship with You.
We pray gentle saviour, for the wisdom and inspiration of Your Holy Spirit to lead and guide us as we seek to do Your will.
In Your most precious name we pray. Amen.
The gospel meditations for August were by Juliana Valdez, a retired primary school teacher. She is a mother of two, son Kyle and daughter J’elle, and is actively involved in the life of the Sacred Heart Parish, La Brea.