Waking up to ‘World Report’ on RTE radio one and listening to the stories of so much pain humans inflict on each other is a reminder of how cruel we can be towards one another. In many instances leaders claim religion as justification to do so and so many horrific incidences are inflicted on women and girls. Hearing these reports instils so much discomfort in me that I want to hide under my duvet. Why, I don’t know, but it is mostly to do with the fact that some groups doing such violent acts to others say they do so from a religious conviction. The story I heard one morning recently was of a 14 year old girl named Machaya, who in Zimbabwe died following child birth. She was part of a community of Zimbabwe’s Apostolic Church in which girls are married off at a young age and medical assistance and hospital care is denied when needed. Such help was refused that morning to this young girl, all in the name of religion, as she gave birth to a baby boy. To add to the tragedy 14 year old Machaya was replaced by a 9 year old girl as a bride.
But as a person striving each day to live the truth of the Gospel I can’t stay hidden under the duvet covers and the reality of the pain of people is something that can’t be switched off.
All the readings of today promote God’s message of what and who humanity is called to be. In the first reading from Deuteronomy we are called to remember the moral demand of the covenant community. It is to keep the commands of the Lord our God, not to subtract and not to add to them. The command of God is to love God and to love our neighbour – no adding or subtracting to that command.
In the second reading of the Letter of James verse 27 it reads that the religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is this: ‘to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’
There are so many orphans and widows and so many people who are in distress in our world. And what is it that is from the world that pollutes us. Perhaps it is to do with our ego. The ego gets in our way and adds and subtracts taking from our true selves, therefore taking from the command of God.
To quote from a recent book by Gerry Hussey, “The ego can also be the manifestation of a frustrated, frightened spirit. It thrives on attack and competition, and an over-ignited ego finds compromise and surrendering very difficult…..Ego is also an artificial construction, a sense of separateness; The ego constantly needs something to possess, and even if we don’t become aware of the ego it will eventually come to possess us.” 
In the gospel story of today Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law on why it is the disciples were not living according to the tradition of the elders.
Jesus’ response is still relevant to present times when he says, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”
The prayer of the psalmist from today’s psalm, Ps 14, sums it up beautifully. Reflecting on who it is can live in the presence of God is put simply and to the point. For when we can live in the truth in the love of God, we are free to live and be brought forth into the presence of God. And we will know this by how we act with justice, in how we do no wrong to our brother or sister and in the manner in which we exercise authority. This we can do if we let go of our ego so as to live in the presence of God. Only then are we members of the covenant community.
Sr. Edel Murphy OP
Image drawn by a primary school pupil