When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, 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 someone 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)
Humankind has coined a lot of words that are unflattering. There are many that even cause people to wince.
Hypocrisy is one of those words. To be called a hypocrite strikes at the very core of a person’s essence since its use means that an individual’s persona is false.
In today’s scripture, we read of Jesus responding with force to the Pharisees., calling them hypocrites and even applying to them Isaiah’s words, “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.”
They were neglecting the two-fold commandment of loving God and neighbor, they were neglecting God directly and indirectly, and obsessing about the human precepts regarding ceremonial washing. Beyond it they were setting aside God’s commandments to uphold their human traditions and pretending that that was the worship Christ wanted.
The Pharisees loved their own traditions to a degree that blinded them to truth and hardened their hearts. They were unable to recognize and embrace Jesus in their midst.
What about us today?
Look around you.
Listen to the words that are spoken. Look at the polemics that have become common place.
Stop and think about how all of this name calling, the self-proclaimed righteousness, the epithets, the derision, the disparagement of others, have affected you and your family.
Listen carefully to the young men and women who are your sons and daughters.
Listen to yourself and your “causes.”
Listen to the politicians who are elevated to their positions of power. What is their language? Is it keeping with the commands of love, of honor, of caring?
Do those words, do those slogans pasted on a bumper sticker or pinned to a wall in your home, sound as if they belong to a person who proclaims they are Christian?
They don ‘t and, like it or not, they fall under the label of hypocrisy.
Going to church, carrying a bible, looking devout doesn’t cut it if we are not authentic Christians. No outward sign of piety can hide a hypocrite from the eyes of God.
We either live the great commands of God or we don’t. If we don’t then we fail the litmus test of being an authentic Christian.
We cannot proclaim our love for Jesus to others while interiorly rejecting one or more of his precepts, especially those that require us to live counter-culturally. To keep our hearts, close to Jesus, we must pray for the virtue of authenticity and frequently examine our attitudes for even the most subtle signs of interior division.
It really is quite simple. We either love and honor Jesus Christ by living his words or we don’t.
May we have the courage and fortitude to be authentic disciples of Christ in all aspects of our life.
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.”
If we listen to God’s word with faith and reverence, it will both enlighten our mind and purify our heart – thus enabling us to better understand how he wants us to love and obey him. The Lord invites us to draw near to him and to feast at his banquet table. Do you approach with a clean heart and mind? Ask the Lord to cleanse and renew you with the purifying fire of his Holy Spirit.