If you want a really strange game-plan to take over the world – check out the third Beatitude.
The humble, the lowly, the meek are they that shall inherit the earth. If you think back…all the people in Genesis were united in one common language – but they became very wicked and proud. They built the Tower of Babel because in their pride – they wanted to invade Heaven. So it was toppled…and from this God broke their language into many tongues and He gave them the gift of being small again – and the renewed chance for humility. One of the best fruits of humility is friendship, yet unfortunately the division into many nations has given rise throughout history quite often to fighting. Eventually God takes out of all these nations, one man – Abraham – and chooses Abraham to be the head of a new nation – Israel. God then let Israel go into slavery and become the most oppressed people on earth. Why? So that it could understand the condition of being lowly and despised and throughout its long birth into freedom, Israel was to always understand that it was God’s hand leading it. Israel was too pitiably small to do its mighty deeds on its own, but great nations were broken against its law-abiding firmness, because it did not think much of itself – but much of God’s Commandments. Israel was to be tiny in physical stature, but big in Spirit.
Awe for the Commandments is the meaning of the first reading. God forbids the Israelites from taking away Commandments, but it also has no power to inflate the Eternal Law. God is pure Spirit. His Mind which is the Source of all Good does not change and so the good itself does not change and so the Commandments which should help us to do the good do not change. So for example, because innocent human life is a great good – it has always been wrong to take innocent human life (all way back to Cain killing Abel) and taking innocent human life will always be wrong.
While God is pure Spirit, we are made of both spirit and matter. Matter is physical. Our bodies are composed of matter. It is limited by space and time and power. It is not able to know or to love. Matter grows and changes and decays. Eventually, matter will be glorified at the final Coming of Christ and we will inherit new and immortal bodies. Now while matter is limited by space and time – spirit is not. Our spirits do not have a size or shape. Spirits have two functions: to know and to love. Our spirits come up with ideas. Ideas are pretty amazing if you think about it, for they are spiritual. As such, ideas do not have size or shape either – and cannot be generated by matter. Some people don’t think of themselves as spiritual people, but they are always making ideas which is a spiritual practice on the way to knowing. Our spirits are finite – we are not God – and so we can speak of them as changing, by growing in knowledge and the ability to love and to be conformed to Christ, but they do not have to break down and decompose like matter. They are safe from all of that unless we fall into sin.
I bring all of this up due to our Gospel. The Pharisees weren’t dumb. They knew that God had commanded them to be a distinct nation separate from the Gentiles and part of this came from eating certain foods while rejecting others. The priests were also supposed to follow certain ritual washings before offering sacrifice to God. The Pharisees however started mixing these two ideas together and required everyone to wash before they ate, as if washing their own material bodies very fastidiously could lead them to the purity of God’s Spirit. Whatever the case may be, they were adding to the Law.
They didn’t realize that this Jesus of Nazareth was the real reason behind the dietary laws and the whole separation of Israel from other nations. They didn’t know that the Messiah was to come from their itty-bitty Israel, this nation that had been isolated off and that the Savior would be humble enough to die for even the dirty Romans. From this lowliest and yet most-beloved country, He was to be the lowliest of the low, even to be crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem – rejected by all: the lowest common denominator. No nation was too poor for Him, no man had been more despised, and so everyone has the ability to identify with Jesus. Jesus, being the final purpose of Israel’s separation from other nations, today essentially declares to His Church that all foods are clean for them. As for the ritual washing of hands, Jesus tells the Pharisees that they should not focus on the purification of matter, but on the cleansing of their spirits. They were forming ideas, but these thoughts were not equal to the Commandments, and they did not reflect his love.
When I think about Jesus’ message to focus on the interior of the heart and not some kind of external purity – I think of our own constant headlines about race. The focus continues to be on these external factors – such as the very pigmentation of our skin. Many people want to lump everyone they think looks a certain way into racial categories that don’t even make sense. Truly in this country more than any other, the idea of some kind of material purity or racial purity should be laughed at. Today for example to try and find a politically correct term for white people, it is common to hear the term “anglo.” G.K. Chesterton, an Englishman, wrote over a hundred years ago: “That sort of thing must be left to people who talk about the Anglo-Saxon race, and extend the the expression to America. How much of the blood of the Angles and Saxons (whoever they were) there remains in our mixed British, Roman, German, Dane, Norman, and Picard stock is a matter only interesting to wild antiquaries. And how much of the diluted blood can possibly remain in that roaring whirlpool of America into which a cataract of Swedes, Jews, Germans, Irishmen, and Italians is perpetually pouring, is a matter only interesting to lunatics.” The media can keep the term Anglo, you can call me white if you are so inclined, but by the grace of God I am a Missourian, I am an American, and I am a Roman Catholic. These are spiritual realities through which I am joined to humanity and God.
We did not choose to be born into the United States, and we may not feel we have a choice whether or not to move out or stay. But we do have a choice as to whether we abide by her rules, and what’s even more spiritual than that is we have the ability to love her and all of her people. We can follow the example of Christ and humble ourselves – to consider everyone else as our equal or our better – and out of our hearts will not flow evil thoughts – those of unchastity, theft, and murder, for Jesus has promised elsewhere that “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’
Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive.”