Good News for the Day, February 6, 2018
Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time (330)
When some Pharisees along with some of the educated class—people who had come from Jerusalem—gathered around Jesus, they took notice that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean—unwashed—hands. (Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without washing their hands in a careful ritual, keeping to the way they have always done it. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the ritual cleansing of cups, bottles, pans and beds.) In any event, these Pharisees and academics questioned him, “Why aren’t your followers following the way your elders have done, but rather eat a meal with ritually unclean hands?” Jesus responded, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you fakes. As it is written: This group honors me with their lips, but their hearts are just so far from me; it is empty, the honor they show me—teaching as dogmas some principles that are just human ones. You pay no attention to God’s commandment but hang onto human tradition.” He went on: “How easily—cleverly—you have set aside the commandment of God just to uphold your tradition! It was Moses who said, Honor your father and your mother, and Anybody who rejects father or mother is to die. But you say, ‘If someone says to their father or mother, Any support you might have had from me is “qorban”‘ (i.e., dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You neglect the word of God in favor of some tradition that you have created and handed on. You do many such things!” (Mark 7)
“You neglect the word of God in favor of tradition”—some human tradition you have received and handed on—mindlessly and selfishly. How true is it, and the Gospel is talking not just about the Jewish religion here! In fact, in some ways, Jesus is suggesting that it is your and my religions—at times—that replace divine goodness—God’s deep and natural order of creation—with bad human conduct.
Human habits—learned from parents, schools, newspapers, TV and friends—become mechanical, external—and even selfish—rules–harmful habits that reek of prejudice against brothers and sisters of Our Father. It takes courage to face up to myself, to realize helpfulness can be controlling, patience can be cowardice, advice can be stupid projection, and so on. Each moment, you and I need to sift what is raw loving and true—as opposed to habit and selfish. Each moment calls for the joyful discovery of repentance—to re-discover how to love one another in humility and true kindness.