Millennials and their younger brothers and sisters might appreciate this Sunday’s Mass readings. Our kids tend to be tech savvy and they realize their intelligent devices come preloaded with software. What they may not realize is that by using these apps they are agreeing to the manufacturer’s terms and conditions—which nobody ever reads. What attendees of this Sunday’s Mass will read however, are the original terms and conditions our maker established for our hard drives—dating back to the time of Moses. These guidelines were drafted to help us get the most out of our soul’s application and avoid finding ourselves on the wrong side of the law. In our first reading (Dt 4:1-2, 6-8), Moses magnifies the fine print for the Israelites:
“Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations.”
Unfortunately, mankind often goes haywire (a term from the Baby Boomer era, sorry) and his programming gets buggy. It’s the consequence of our free-will license. So leave it to Jesus to help us transcend our human nature and understand our purpose. In Sunday’s second reading his teachings are filtered poetically through his disciple James (Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27). He is one of the three disciples Jesus selected to witness his spiritual transfiguration, after all, so James probably understood features hardwired into our souls better than we know ourselves. Here James breaks down those terms and conditions so they’re not only understandable, but beautiful:
Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
But Jesus knew that nothing corrupts programming worse than inauthentic code, and the preeminent authors of malware in his day were the Pharisees. So in Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23), Jesus does an in-person clinic that would awe the nerdiest member of the Geek Squad. Here he explains the dangers of the original virus mankind planted in his own system. As any master debugger understands, when the source of a bug is known, the best debugging approach is inside-out.
“Hear me, all of you, and understand,” Jesus says. “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Our best hope is never to click on anything sent from these sources. And most importantly, if you do, report such malware to your Maker.
To put it in non-nerdist terms, confession is good for the soul.