1Kgs 8:22-23,27-30, Ps 84:3,4,5,10,11; Mk 7:1-13
The whole heart desires only one thing. The heart God has made whole by his love desires only one thing. To dwell in the house of the LORD, to continually praise the Name of the LORD, is the one thing that will fulfill the human heart. This is the deep awareness out of which today’s responsorial psalm is written. Indeed, with King Solomon and all our ancestors in the faith we pray: “My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the LORD. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” It is the gift of faith that allows such a prayer to arise. Once the human heart has experienced the love of the LORD there is no place else it would rather be than with the LORD. The birds of the air and the flowers of the fields have been touched by the beauty of Beauty itself. Even these find a home and a place to build a nest near the altar of the LORD of hosts, our King, our God. All who are transformed by divine love seek to dwell in the house of the LORD where they continually praise him. Indeed, the LORD is our shield and his healing gaze is upon us. The LORD looks upon the face of the one he has anointed. Solomon is his anointed Son of David, the new king in Israel. The Lord Jesus is the true Son of David; he is anointed with the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus comforts those who would rather lie at the threshold of the house of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. At the same time he challenges those who take their access to the house of God for granted and think that they can keep the poor and undesirables out. Indeed, it is the mercy and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus that keeps us faithful to the Word of God. Indeed, it is the Word Made Flesh that purifies the traditions so that in the Holy Spirit we may be obedient sons of the Son of David.
The dwelling place of the LORD is in the heart of Solomon and in the hearts of the people of God. This altar in the new temple is just a reminder of the pervasive and powerful presence of God in the lives of those who call upon the Name of the LORD. We too stretch forth our hands toward heaven and pray with all who believe and trust in the God who made heaven and earth, in the God who keeps his covenant of mercy with all his servants. In awe and wonder we too ask: “Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth?” All creation cannot contain or limit the LORD. God is greater than the Temple in Jerusalem. God is greater than the human heart. Indeed, the greatness of the LORD summons us to prayer. We trust in the one who created the universe and who created every human heart to listen to our petitions, to listen and to grant pardon. Indeed, we always need pardon; we always need to give thanks; we always have a petition; and we cannot live fully human lives without worship, praise, and contemplation. Solomon prayed with his whole heart. He prayed in the Temple built according to the LORD’s direction modeled after his heavenly courts. We, too, are summoned to the heavenly liturgy and to the intimacy of our hearts. Until we find the LORD at home deep within our hearts, we will never find ourselves at home in the House of the LORD. Indeed, only then, and only then, will our yearning and our pining be fulfilled.
Even the Law of the Lord can be used as an excuse for ignoring the Law of the Lord. At the time of the Lord Jesus, the Pharisees were well known for the purity of their observance. In a zealous attempt to be sure that the Law was observed, they put up a fence around the Law. Going beyond that fence was as dangerous as going beyond the Law itself. Yet, this attitude degenerated into the manipulation of the Law and a using of the Commands to feather one’s nest. The Lord Jesus picked up on this distortion and challenged the Pharisees, even as they were looking out to prove to the crowds that he was unfaithful and not worthy of their trust. They complained that he and his disciples did not carefully wash their hands before eating. In response to this accusation the Lord Jesus quotes the Prophet Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me!” Isaiah did not hold back, neither does the Lord Jesus. The Lord reminds the Pharisees that they declare money “qorban,” which means dedicated to God. Once money has been given over to God it cannot be used to provide for parents or meet any other human need. It’s as if God needed money. Such a twisting of the law to avoid the intent of the law destroys devotion to God and to parents. Ultimately, such a manipulation of the law will be used to destroy the Lord Jesus. He is dangerous to the Pharisees and the leaders who are unable to control him. The intimacy of the Lord Jesus with the Source and Giver of the Law liberates him from the power of those who nullify the word of God in favor of their favorite traditions. What makes the Lord Jesus even more dangerous is that he teaches others to live in the freedom of the children of God.