The Catholic Church in Australia celebrates Migrant & Refugee Sunday on the last Sunday in August. The message of Bishop Vincent Long, Delegate for the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, for this occasion can be read here. Esmey Herscovitch RSCJ marks Migrant & Refugee Sunday 2015 by reflecting on the readings for the day. She asks “Where are our hearts?”
The one thing I remember from a talk many years ago on the new code of Canon Law i.e. Church law, is that laws are made to protect peoples’ rights and freedoms and not to bind and constrict.
Today’s readings focus to a large extent on law and observance.
The first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy (4:1-2, 6-8) calls the people to observe the law that they ‘’may have life’’, and it speaks of the ‘’wisdom’’ of the law. It is in the Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus that The Law to love God, and love one’s neighbour as oneself appear. The extract from St James’ letter (1:17-18, 21-22, 27) picks up this theme of sincere love of others; to “orphans and widows” we might add people seeking asylum or refuge.
On this Migrant and Refugee Sunday we might reflect on the laws of our country in relation to people seeing asylum. Are they just, are they wise, do they promote life?
In today’s gospel passage Jesus is chiding the Pharisees and scribes for their observance of rituals that are human traditions. But, Jesus says, “their hearts are far from me”.
“What is important is not what goes into a person but what comes out of them – their behaviour. Our behaviour shows what is inside us”. “The precise difference between Jesus and the Pharisees is that they looked at the external activity whereas Jesus looked at the heart, the source of activity. They looked at the fulfillment of law and tradition while he looked at love and commitment. They looked at the letter of the law while he looked at its spirit.” (from a reflection on the Gospel at the Sundays into Silence website quoted in Bulletin notes for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time in CathNews of 28th August 2015.)
We might ask ourselves today “Where are our hearts?” As we come to the Eucharist, it is our hearts we bring. How goes my relationship with Jesus, with other people? Many years ago a very wise sister said to me ‘’the only perfection is love’’. And perhaps this sums up today’s readings.