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Rites That Are Not Right

March 18, Saturday, Third Week of Lent
Hos 6: 1 – 6; Lk 18: 9 – 14

William Barclay, the noted Biblical commentator, writes of a Jewish Rabbi who was imprisoned by the Nazis. In prison, the Rabbi suffered from dehydration. This surprised the guards because they provided enough water for his needs. By secretly observing him, the guards realized that the Rabbi was using much of his water for purificatory rites, prescribed by Jewism. This is the classical story of ritualism.

Every religion has got its own way of worshipping God and this worship contains various rites –sacrificial, purificatory etc. The purpose of all external rites or rituals is to have an internal conversion. When a ritual does not help a person to go for a change of mind, then it gets degenerated into what is called ritualism. But the problem is that there are quite many religious people who focus on the external rituals alone and feel proud about following them. The Pharisee we meet in the gospel is just an example. Of course, he is the representative of most of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. The Pharisees focused on the meticulous observance of the external aspects of the rituals and laws, and did not have much regard for the change of mindset which the rituals and laws pointed to.

The last verse of the first reading, “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” precisely points to this truth. The Israelites of Hosea’s time performed some prescribed rituals and thought their duty towards Yahweh was over. However what God instructed through Hosea was that He was more interested in the change of internal disposition than mere observance of some rituals.

One of the great dangers of religious practitioners is the gap between what they profess in the church and what they do outside the church. Maritain calls many of the believers as practical atheists. What he means is that when they come to church, they pray as if God is everything. However, in their practical life they live as if they are everything and God is nothing. What they do in the church does not bring any change in the way they think and live. Is it true with me too? Am I a practical atheist?


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.