What does the reading from the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time have to do with last week’s readings? In the article, “The divine dance and bringing God’s flame to the world,” the concept of the divine dance was presented. In this week’s readings the concept of religion as it was understood to the first century Gospel writers is presented. This word, “θρησκεία,” “religion,” is not well defined in the Greek dictionaries. On the other hand, the earliest Aramaic translators did translate this word into the Aramaic Peshitta Bible. In doing so, they used the word from which Samson was named. Jastrow, in his dictionary defines “θρησκεία/religion,” as, “to handle, to be busy at, to minister, to officiate.” Cohen is the Hebrew word for a priest and also translates as an official. From this comes the idea of an attendant, servant, or waiter. The Greek seems to have defined religion in relation to the temple services.
Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. The one who peers into the complete instruction of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one is blessed in what he does. Anyone thinking he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and uncommon before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
The one who looks into the complete instruction of freedom looks into the divine fire. The Hebrew word for religion is also related to the word for our sun. When we look to God we look into the divine fire, and we begin to participate in the divine dance. We cannot help but to do so. When we look to God and start to participate in the divine dance, we hope others will look to us, also see the divine fire in us, and also participate in the dance. This is where our first reading comes into play.
In your observance of the Mitzvah of the NAME, your God, I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. Guard to do them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’ What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the NAME, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has customs and precedents as just as this whole instruction I set before you today?”
The meaning is clear. If, as a nation, we participate in the divine dance, if as Catholics we participate in the divine dance, we will set the example of other nations and for other denominations. They may envy us, but they will not hate us. There is no need to force our faith on other people. Our example will lead the way. Some of us are officials, attendants of The Word in our Sunday liturgy. All of us are part of the universal priesthood of the faithful. We are all attendants of the word living in us through the divine fire of the divine dance, given to us through the Holy Spirit. James is clear in what this means. As one nation, one people born together, by common heritage, if not by place of birth or by blood, we care for one another. We make sure all have sufficient food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, transportation, and the common needs of life.
Jesus speaks the same message in our Gospel reading. What makes a person common, no better than the other nations is failure to participate in the divine dance. We become full of “rotten thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.” In short, we put ourselves first, and not the rest of our nation/[people born together/family, the rest of mankind, and the rest of God’s planet. The Hebrew word for wicked is Russia and refers to those who put themselves first. The common people are this. This is the many who are called. The special people, the few who are chosen, put God’s creation first and choose to participate in the divine dance. Let’s dance.