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Deut 4:1-2, 6-8; Jm 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and 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. Jm 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27

James leads us to understand the importance of practical Christianity, that "faith without good works is dead" (James 2:17). He makes two important points in today's reading. He teaches the importance of faith in action, and he defines for us what true devotion is. True devotion is not a matter of hearing good preaching and celebrating inspiring liturgies. Good preaching and inspiring liturgies are wonderful. Yet the litmus test of true devotion remains how we live out the word of God that we hear.

James uses the analogy of a man who looks in the mirror and sees his dirty face and dishevelled hair and goes away without doing anything about it. The word of God, like the mirror, shows us how dirty our faces are and how dishevelled our hair is. A wise man would immediately take steps to wash his face and shave his beards to improve his looks. That is the purpose of the mirror. Hearing the word of God alone does not make us holy. It is when we take steps to put into action what the word of God teaches us that we make progress in the journey of faith.

James shows us that there are two practical ways of doing the word of God. One is in reaching out to my neighbour in need and the other is in disciplining myself and keeping myself pure. "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).

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