Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. [For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. 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 purification of cups and jugs and kettles (and beds).] So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’ Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”(Mark 7:1-13)
That is quite an intense and frank scene in today’s Gospel.
The Scribes and Pharisees were upset with Jesus because he allowed his disciples to break with their ritual traditions by eating with unclean hands. They sent a delegation all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to bring their accusation in a face-to-face confrontation with Jesus.
Jesus did as Jesus would. He accused them of hypocrisy for appearing to obey God’s word in their external practices while they inwardly harbor evil desires and intentions. He reminds them and us that inner purity is far more important than outward cleanliness. What really matters is the way we think — our inmost desires and longings.
Each and every one of us has a heart problem, and not just a physical one. The heart is a fountain out of which flows all that affects our lives. If the heart is affected by sin, it becomes deceitful and wicked. If it is centered on the love of God then that which we do is both pure and consistent with His desire for us.
When God looks at us, the first thing he sees is the state of our heart. God doesn’t care about what we look like on the outside. He’s more concerned about what’s on the inside. He has more sympathy and compassion for a poor beggar in rags who has true faith than he does for rich rulers who wear fine clothes but have rotten hearts and souls. If we don’t take time to have our hearts purified by God once in a while, we won’t be able to receive his blessings.
We have to ask ourselves what are the interests of God, and what does God think about the way we live our lives. Does the way we live our lives reflect a way of life that is in sync with God and his plan for our lives? While our Christianity should shape our behavior, it runs deeper than our behavior. It has implications for how we live our lives, but it is also mysticism before it is morality, faith before it is action, the seed of a new life before it is the fruit of that new life.
There is a bit of Pharisee in each of us. Vigilance to our heart will yield the life that He seeks for each of us.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, let the fire of your Holy Spirit cleanse my mind and my heart that I may love you purely and serve you worthily.”
Jesus wanted to get back to basics. He cut through the forest of minute rules and regulations and revealed the whole purpose of God’s Law. This was to protect and foster love for God and each other. Good law should provide a framework in which love can grow. Bad law stifles real love. A good heart focused on His word yields the life of a true follower of Christ.