Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, 22 Sat Sept. 2, 2018 B

Friends, the book of Deuteronomy means "the second law". It contains many of the laws already in the first four book of the OT. Deuteronomy contains three long speeches placed in Moses' mouth. When the people of Israel arrived at the land of Moab from which they could see the promised land, Moses gathered the people and urged them not to forget the covenant that God had made with them on Mount Sinai. He urged them to stand firm when they entered the promised land. If God's people keep the law of God, other people and tribes will praise God. They will be a good example for other people. They shall not change God's law but keep it as they received it. Through this, the people will be greater than the other people in which they live. The Gentiles will be wiser in worldly things, but God's people will have knowledge that the Gentiles will be amazed at. Some pagans had refined laws, but Israel's laws were part of the covenant that shaped them as a people and individuals to God.

Moses accepted 613 regulations; 365 (prohibition) corresponding to the days of the solar year, and 248 (laws) corresponding to the number of bones in the human body. David came and reduced the number to eleven (11). Then Isaiah got it down to six (6) and then to two (2). Habakkuk the prophet reduced it down to one, because it is said: "The righteous shall live by his faith" (2: 4). Jesus came to preach the kingdom of God, which is not a territory but a state of being. He initiates this kingdom that will become perfect on the last day. This is a kingdom of love and freedom that does not force anyone to accept it. The law has the goal to transform the person from the inside. It is not meant just for external observation devoid of interiorization.

This Sunday’s gospel has a message that is more relevant than ever before. Among other things, the need to learn to have great respect for God's holiness. We must not be quick to believe we understand. Many swarms for Jesus, but the one who is not prepared to follow him on to his cross shows that they do not know who he is. We can only bear fruit if we live in Jesus, if his life flows through us. "Without me, you cannot do anything. If anyone is in me and I in him, he will bear rich fruit ". We believe we can build our own holiness. But holiness is nothing but Christ's holiness that flows into the human person who opens to him. Some say they are Christians but go to worship only when they feel like. The pick the things they like in the word of God and deny the ones that they do not like. Although we may their priests, but the secular world is their teacher and mentor. It is from the secular world they pick their role models not among the saints of God. Just because you can relate to their weaknesses does not mean you have to adapt or accept their way of life.

Jesus does not fit into the teachings of the Pharisees and Scribes about how the Messiah would act and act. He surprised, amazed and overwhelmed everyone he encountered. The perfection, the holiness required by law now consists in following Jesus and remaining in him. In today's gospel, Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites. They honour God with their lips, while their hearts are far away. They do not keep the laws and regulations to honour God but for self-reverence. In other words, they are actors. Now Jesus is turning to the people who have probably heard the dialogue between him and the Pharisees. All sins have their foundation in the human heart, intellect, will and intention. Through ignorance, the people broke many of the laws the Pharisees had made. Christ showed in words and actions that the Pharisees were wrong. He forgives all who repent. He has also given to his Church the sacrament of reconciliation. Through Jesus, we learn that we must hate sin but love the sinner. Does this mean that sinners will continue in sin? No, those who do not want to repent are already cursed.

I dare say that in all of us there are little Pharisees, Scribes, who resist Jesus' words and have preconceived notions about God's words, how it should be interpreted and how God should behave and act. There is somewhere in every human being a desire to be right against God and what God commands especially when what God commands does not want to fit us and those close to us. Not only individuals but also groups struggle to correct God and his words. Is it not that we usually forget that the kingdom of God belongs to the children. The learned and wise, those who believe they are reasonable and know better than God, have great difficulty listening and hearing God’s living words that liberate. All that is required is to rely on God's word. However, the tragedy is that they do not, and they make many people follow them on their way.

Today we see that it's easy to change one's appearance. You can use cosmetics to change your appearance. With different treatments, plastic surgery, you can get what type of face, mouth, nose, eyes, skin colour as you wish. You can have whatever kind of eye lashes, change your eye colour to blue or enlarge or reduce any part of your body. With the mind it is very difficult. The most important battle a person has is against his mind. It is in the mind that real and true transformation takes place. Therefore, we can understand how priests, bishops and cardinals and others in the Church can indulge the activities that investigations in the USA has revealed about the enormity of abuse of sexual abuse of young people that have taken place in the Church. Even though they claim to belong to Jesus, they have not been transformed by the renewal of their minds. Most people would rather not engage the battle of the mind but simply embrace all the outwards expressions of a renewed mind. Church people are also among the most dishonest people in the world. We may be as beautiful as a bouquet of roses, no one hardly knows what we are hiding under ourselves. No one knows what we have to deal with behind closed doors like the Syrian general, Naaman.

Certainly, it is extremely important what Jesus says about some Pharisees and Scribes who had come from Jerusalem and accused Jesus and his disciples of plot by breaking the rules of the fathers. In reply to them, Jesus says and quotes the prophet Isaiah: "Isaiah prophesied right about you, hypocrites, when he says," This people are honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They earnestly worship me, for the teachings they teach are the commandments of men. You turn from God's commandment to adhere to the rules of men. "

Faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17). A person becomes what she reads or feed her mind with. It's also what you have saturated your mind with which it will give out. Do you want to be a musician, you listen to lots of music, read music books and play instruments and sing day and night? Do you want to become a doctor, you study medical books? Do you want to be a writer, you write daily and read other writers? If you want to be a criminal, you read books on criminals and join criminal gangs. This applies to all things a person wants to be in life, but at least the word of God. If you want to know God, pray and deepen your faith, read and study the scripture, other spiritual writings, go to church, listen to preaching. Therefore, Paul writes, "Do not adapt to this world, but be transformed through the renewal of the mind, that you may know what the will of God is, that which is good and perfect, and that pleases him" (Rom 12: 2). The mind is renewed by what it is fed.

We almost always tend to regard Christianity as a series of regulations. The Ten Commandments, Sermon on the mount. But Christianity is not a series of regulations. A Christian is not someone who has to do something, a Christian has received something, "a whole new life". And all Christians are new-born people who no longer live their own lives but have the risen Lord's life. That's exactly what the story of Nicodemus lets us see (John 3: 4). It is to be in Jesus and not in ourselves. Through baptism we have chosen to live in the world of Jesus, no longer in our own. Jesus does not want us to live in him sometimes. He wants us to live in him always.

James directs his letter to the twelve Jewish tribes in the diaspora (1: 1). In the five verses we read today, he calls us to be Christians in practice not in theory; to live in accordance with the laws we have received. It's not enough to say, "I believe". I also must show with my life that I truly believe. A Christian who thinks the acceptance of the gospel message can earn heaven's life just for herself without putting it into practice has missed the point. James reminds of what the Christians owe to God. Christians have received the full revelation in Christ. If these gifts of grace are to serve us, we must use them in the right way. Only confessing our faith is not enough. Therefore, Jesus warned, "It is not those who call me Lord, Lord, who enter the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the will of my Father." To enter the kingdom of heaven, they must help their fellow human beings, especially orphans and widowers, that is, they needy.

Today Christianity tends to impress people that they do what they want because God loves, forgives and is merciful to all. God is often portrayed as a nice uncle, Santa Claus who does not care how we live our lives here on earth. This is an image of God that does not count on his justice As Christians, we are called for a holy fear of God's holiness. Participation in liturgical acts such as the holy Mass, receiving all sacraments and carrying out devotions, novenas, pilgrimages, lead nowhere to anyone who lacks fear of the glory of God.

Our life is a life in the world not of the world. A life of the world means adapting to the trends. We need day to day practice and train ourselves in the fear of God. Changes begin in the mind and heart. The fear of God's glory results in a good heart. And a good heart bears good fruit. To bear fruit is a joy in life. God is never in partnership with bitterness, enmity, envy, fraud, murder, lie. These will spoil your chances of being blessed. Never buy into the lie of the secular world and adopt their language, and then start living their truth. Everyone's gifts have their foundation in love that can only be found where there is joy. The solution to our problems is always under our roof, inside ourselves, our mind. There is nothing as powerful as a changed mind

To live Christian life in the present, the Christian must have an inner conviction of himself or herself as a unique person in a unique relationship with God. Once we have discovered that God has a personal plan for our lives and our salvation, it can be easier to be faithful and hold on to him no matter how the shifting trends of the world. Never be tired of repeating your conviction of your unique relationship with God. Jesus tells the people today: "Listen to me all and try to understand." Important in this context is also to create a thirst for knowledge and train you to listen. Have a heart of a disciple, very few people learn to listen, to be both physically and mentally present. Always be present and discover the spiritual gifts at any moment. God's Word requires commitment from us. Chikezie Onuoha MSP.

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