AUGUST 29. Ord Time B. Wk 22. Sun. Mk 7. 1-8. 21-23
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
“This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.”
He called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’
The scribes and Pharisees had created multiple rules and laws the people should follow and they promoted the idea that if these laws were obeyed that those who followed them were “good.” The only problem was, these laws; - which were made by man; - were not the laws made by God!
This situation is highly relevant, even today, where Christians can become attracted to the values of the world, while ignoring the teachings of the Son of God. The world, for example, says that to be “successful” we have to be wealthy, lead a comfortable life style, have a wide circle of friends, be in good health, and have an attractive appearance.
And while many of us would “desire” all of these features for ourselves and our families, it is interesting to note Christ taught and experienced none of them; - nor did he teach any of them were necessary for eternal salvation; - and we need to ponder this simple truth!
What he taught were the virtues of Humility, Obedience, Charity, Self-denial, Generosity, Prayer and Worship; - and the need to embrace our personal, God-given cross. It would be interesting to know how many of us “desire” these virtues for ourselves and our families; - and which takes precedence; - the values of the world; - or the values of Christ?
The values of the world would have everything in our lives turn out “just the way I want them,” while the values taught by Christ would have us seeking “the Will of God”; - so there is an enormous gap between the two, with Christ embracing the Cross, and the world rejecting it.
This is borne out in today’s Gospel where the scribes and Pharisees placed the emphasis on cultural and community expectations, while Christ said: “the doctrines they teach are only human regulations. You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.”
Gospel Acclamation James 1:18
The Father gave us birth by his message of truth,
that we might be as the first fruit of his creation.
First reading Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8 ·
Observe these laws and customs, that you may have life
Moses said to the people: ‘Now, Israel, take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life and may enter and take possession of the land that the Lord the God of your fathers is giving you. You must add nothing to what I command you, and take nothing from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God just as I lay them down for you. Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding. When they come to know of all these laws they will exclaim, “No other people is as wise and prudent as this great nation.” And indeed, what great nation is there that has its gods so near as the Lord our God is to us whenever we call to him? And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?’
"take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life"
"Keep them, observe them, and they will demonstrate to the peoples your wisdom and understanding."