Scripture: 1st Reading: 1Kgs8,22-23,27-30; Resp. Psalm: Ps84,3-5,10-11; Gosp. Accl.: Ps119,36,29; Gospel: Mk7,1-13
The God we serve is awesome. Nothing can contain Him. No human expression can adequately describe Him. There is no other God beside Him, none to compare with Him. He makes covenant. He keeps it. He is merciful. He is faithful. His holy name be glorified now and forever.
Solomon built a house for the ark of the covenant and a place where the people could meet and encounter God. This house was never meant to and could never contain God in His immensity. The house was just a sign of His presence, a reminder to Israel that Yahweh's promise to abide with them would continue to hold.
King Solomon realized that even having built the temple, no house could contain the immense glory of God. Heaven and earth could not contain Him. This was why this wise king pleaded with Yahweh to allow His eyes be open night and day, that is, unceasingly, towards the temple and listen to the prayer and supplication which would be made in the temple and forgive His people their sins whenever they prayed to Him.
The prayer that the people prayed in the temple would however continue to be pleasing to Yahweh in so far as they lived coherent lives. Their prayers would continue to be heard if they honoured God not only with their lips but more importantly, with their hearts and minds and souls, indeed, with their entire lives.
Our Lord, the true Temple of God, taught the people this same teaching in today's gospel passage. The Pharisees and scribes questioned Him about the demands for external signs and display of ritual purity like purification before eating, the tradition of washing hands and purifying oneself before eating. For them, to refuse to do these was tantamount to eating with hands defiled because every meal was considered a religious event since Yahweh was the Provider of the meal and those partaking of the meal had the obligation to give thanks to Yahweh for such gifts.
Our Lord on this occasion cautioned them severely for their externalisation of religion, making it look as if it was a mere show. He condemned them for leaving the commandments of God to hold fast to human traditions. He condemned them for worshipping God with their lips whereas their hearts were far from Him. What they said with their mouths failed to correspond to how they lived their lives.
This is where St. Paul Miki and his twenty five companions were different. They were Japanese who accepted faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They lived this faith in hostile environment but were totally undeterred. Eventually, they were made to pay the Supreme price for their faith in Christ.
They were crucified at Nagasaki on 5 February, 1597. At the time of his martyrdom, St. Paul Miki was just thirty two years old. That is the prize we may have to pay for being coherent and for living what we preach. May the Lord strengthen us to live coherent lives and bear Him faithful witness.
Let us pray: "O God, strength of all the Saints, who through the Cross were pleased to call the Martyr's Saint Paul Miki and companions to life, grant, we pray, that by their intercession, we may hold with courage even until death to the faith that we profess." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.