Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8, James 1:17-18,21-22,27, Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23
To worship comes from the old English word “worth-ship“ which in its simplest form means to give worth to something. It is an act shown to a deity to show that He is worthy.
In essence, to worship God is that adoration, honour and reverence that we show to God. In the effort to worship our God, we try to fulfil our obligations as Christians like coming to church, attending spiritual activities and fulfilling our duties and responsibilities.
Despite all these that we do, evil keeps increasing, corruption and total neglect of God keep alarming. Today many families are in total shambles, many are fighting themselves every day.
We come to church but we go back home the way we are to continue from where we stopped.
Hence, there is a worship that God demands. This is the worship that truly pleases Him. The worship that pleases God is the one that comes from the heart.
It is not the worship of God where hatred, wickedness, envy and jealousy are leading the lines. If we truly want to worship God, it will come from the heart.
When the heart sincerely seeks for God, when the soul yearns for that spiritual equanimity, when we truly seek a sincere relationship with God, then our worship of God becomes worthy of it.
Our worship of God is worthless when it doesn’t come from the heart. When we do it just to attract attention.
Our worship of God is worthless when we give lip service to God but our hearts are very far away from God. This is when we rush to prayers to shout amen but go back to remain how we are. Our worship of God should change us, this is the worship that pleases God. Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:8
“In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted to God, free from anger and controversy”.
In Amos 5:21-23 God tells the Israelites “ I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Take away from Me the noise of your songs”.
This is because they offer worship to Him but their hearts are very far away from God. The worship that pleases God is very well captured in today’s readings. Therefore, not all the worship we give to God comes from our hearts.
The Encounter with the Pharisees and the Scribes.
In the gospel, some Pharisees and the scribes came down from Jerusalem to investigate the activities of Jesus.
They have heard reports of the healing power of Jesus, so they came from Jerusalem to investigate what Jesus is doing.
When they came, what they could see is not the preaching of Jesus Christ nor the healings, etc. What they discovered was that the disciples of Jesus did not wash their hands before eating.
The issue here is not all about the hygienic part of it. It is not what the Pharisees are interested in. Their only concern is to keep the law.
The truth here is that no Old Testament text demands that the Jews should wash their hands before eating. The law was meant explicitly for the priests. And they are to do this cleansing before they should enter the tabernacle. God says in Exodus 30:18-21
“You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the Lord, they shall wash with water, lest they die. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them to him and his descendants throughout their generations”.
Moses and Aaron obeyed this in Exodus 40:31. But before the time of Jesus, many elders, chief priests, and many devout jews took up these practices and multiplied it even to the extent of washing their arms even as far as the elbow and feet before eating.
When they also return from the marketplace they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. They include both the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes”.
The Pharisees are more interested in keeping these laws and not the words of Jesus. The pointer here is that these are not necessary when the worship they give to God does not come from the heart.
The Pharisees keep these laws but lack the virtues of love, mercy and peace. They keep these laws but do not listen to the word of Jesus. Instead, they come to Jesus seeking to find a fault.
The pointer here is that they came seeking for fault and they find one. Whenever we are interested in seeking only faults in people, we shall surely find one.
Also, the Pharisees came to Jesus but instead of listening to Him, they were busy defending a ceremonial law of washing. They are representative of God’s law, but what the law represents is not in them.
They are only interested in keeping the letters of the law and hence forgetting the spirit. Therefore, the worship they give to God is worthless.
The worship that pleases God is not just fulfilling mere religious obligations. It goes beyond that to intimate union with God and doing His word. What God is interested in is to know Him and relate with Him.
It is not how much we try to fulfil a religious obligation but our hearts are very far away from God. The worship that pleases God is the worship that changes who we are and makes us better children of God.
The Life of the Pharisees.
When the Pharisees and the scribes came to Him, they asked Him “why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’.
Jesus then answered him by quoting a passage from Isaiah. He says “It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
These people honour me only with their lips,
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 commandment of God to cling to human traditions.
Therefore what God wants is not what the scribes and the Pharisees are doing. Yes, they are defending the law, but they do this only to attract recognition or to show people who they are.
Jesus calls the hypocrites. The word “hypocrite” (hypokrites) means “play actor” and refers here to people whose worship is merely outward and not from the heart.
In saying that Isaiah had prophesied about them, Jesus is not saying that Isaiah had the Pharisees and the teachers of the law in mind when he made the statement. But Isaiah wrote that when he denounced the religious leaders of his time and this statement also fits the religious leaders in the time of Jesus’ day.
So, the life of a Pharisee is the life of someone whose interest is only in keeping rules and regulations but the heart is far away from God.
They are those who worship God only to attract attention. They pray so that people will praise them. People will say “nwam Ihe ina ekpe” (You pray hard). They speak in tongues so that people will clap for them. They do charity and take videos to receive a human appraisal.
The life of the Pharisees is the life of the one who tries to show people that he is the holiest and religious man within.
Yet within their heart they know that what they are doing is camouflaging, the service they give to God is only lip service but their hearts are very far away from God.
This is when we honour God with our lips but our hearts are very far away from God.
What Defiles A Man.
As the discussion today was going, Jesus now called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean.
Therefore, what Jesus is telling them is that their ceremonial washing of hands can not make them clean or unclean. What makes a man unclean is the things that he thinks in his heart.
Deep in the heart is the seat of good and evil. From within comes all evil intentions. It is from within that man thinks about evil things like fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.
So, Jesus is saying that all these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.
In essence, to truly worship and honour God, we have to clean the inside. The inside is what makes a man. It is the inside that says whether we are saints or sinners. Or whether we are truly worshipping God or not.
It is not what we show outside or what we show to people. In essence, it is not appearing holy but the cause of problems in our family. It is not being the first to receive Holy Communion but we hardly make God happy with the type of life we live.
This is not being the first to sing in the choir, become the president of Fathers and mothers organisation, president of youths and patron and matron.
It is not receiving titles in the church and being just a member of mass servers. The worship that pleases God is not lip service.
What God wants
1. The Responsorial Psalm says
The Psalm 24 3-4 says “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who desires not worthless things, who have sworn not to deceive hIs neighbour.
Then verse 5 says “They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Saviour”. Therefore, what God expects from us is a sincere relationship with Him and with our neighbour.
2. The worship that pleases God is not keeping to rules, traditions and regulations, and still we become heartless to our fellow human beings. The worship that pleases God is the worship that is deeply rooted in love and forgiveness.
3. What God wants from us is not showing an outward appearance of piety to people, or living a fake life, but total commitment to God and sincere devotion to Him.
What really makes a person is what comes from within. Therefore when you go in His presence, you know the intention already. Whether you are doing it to attract attention or it is from your heart. The inside is very important. We can deceive every person but we can never deceive God.
4. The worship that pleases God is when we do what God says and not what we want. This is when we honour God with the type of life we are living.
In the second reading, James admonishes us to accept and submit to the word which has been planted in us. It is through this that we can save our souls.
Then He says “But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves”.
Therefore, if God is truly our father, we do not just listen to His word and pay deaf ears to Him. We have to listen and keep to the word.
In the first reading, Moses says that to keep and observe whatever God says is the secret of wisdom. He says “Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the people your wisdom and understanding.
Therefore, If we want to please God, we have to take His word as a guide and not as something unimportant. To keep His word is a sign of wisdom.
The gospel acclamation affirms this. It says “Your words are spirit, Lord, and they are life; you have the message of eternal life”.
5. The worship that pleases God is when we take care of others, loving them and helping the poor and the needy. It is not just being religious. It is when we possess the spirit of love and forgiveness. The worship we give to God is not when we pay deaf ears to the sufferings of the poor.
Maybe you are a leader, you are always the first to come to Sunday masses, but the people under you are suffering in pain.
The second reading says “Pure, unspoiled religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.”
So, If we truly love and worship God, then we do not pay deaf ears to the sufferings of the masses.
1. We have to know that goodness and defilement come from within. What people do lies deep in their hearts. When the inside is clean, then we are surely clean.
When our relationship comes from within, then our worship of God is worth it. Our worship is worthless when what we do is not from the heart.
This is when we show people that we are very pious. They see us every day praying and speaking in tongues but deep in our hearts, we know we are just acting.
When what we are doing is coming from the heart, everything will surely be original. You become unstoppable. But when what we do is just to attract recognition, we will do it like people who are pressured and what we do will appear superficial.
The worship that pleases God is the one that we do with all our hearts. We find joy in doing them because they are coming from within. But the worship that displeases God is the one we do only to deceive the people around us. Then the question today is ‘how authentic is the honour that we give to God”
2. Many of us belong to many organisations in the church. So, many have good positions and many of us are in charge of the groups. What are we doing with the groups handed to us?
What are you doing with the position God gives to you? Do we work for God just to enrich ourselves or do we work for God from the heart? Are we using our positions to take advantage of people who put their trust in what we do?
Everything that we do, comes from the heart. When the root of what we do is not from a sincere heart, then we need to rethink. The sacrifice pleasing to God is living a good and sincere life (Hebrews 13:16).
3. We always come to church, we read our Bibles, we pray, we listen to powerful homilies, shout amen to prayers. We play Christian music every time, and dance unto the Lord. Within a twinkle of an eye, we forget the Lord and turn back to scam people, steal, quarrel, and turn our homes into a battlefield.
We come to God and show people how holy we are, but when we go home, our life changes overnight. We become a terror. Instead of living in love, we live in squabbles. Many of us even go diabolic and one begins to wonder “is this not the same person that is pious and holy.
Therefore, what we show outside of us does not matter. The worship that God desires from us is not self-righteousness but a sincere relationship with Him. We can all look fine on the outside, that’s easy. Keeping the inside clean is highly needed.
4. To be clean before the presence of God, we have to keep our hearts clean from evil desire, passion and life. Whatever we harbour in our minds, we must one day do it.
To remain faithful to God, watch goes into your mind. The inside controls the man. God is more interested in the inside.
God searches our hearts. He knows when we worship Him in truth and when we fake it. If God knows this then of what essence is the worship we render to God?
5. The worship that pleases God is not lip service, it is not play-acting. The worship that pleases is not to stay in a reserved seat in the church or to stay in front of the pews.
Hence, the worship that pleases God is not showing people that we can pray and fast from six to six. It is not how many positions and titles you receive.
The worship that pleases God is a sincere and true relationship with God. It is when we live in love and peace with one another. This is when we become living witnesses of the gospel.
It is when the intention of what we are doing for God or others is not without selfish intentions.
The worship that pleases God has nothing to do with fake life. It is when we take care of others wholeheartedly. A pure and sincere heart is what God desires. If this is what God desires from us, do we do otherwise?
May God help us to live a good life, may He give us the grace to worship Him in spirit and in truth. God bless you.