Liturgic day: Sunday 22nd (B) in Ordinary Time
Gospel text (Mc 7,1-8.14-15.21-23): One day the Pharisees gathered around Jesus and with them were some teachers of the Law who had just come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of his disciples were eating their meal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. Now the Pharisees, and in fact, all the Jews, never eat without washing their hands for they follow the tradition received from their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything when they come from the market without first washing themselves. And there are many other traditions they observe, for example, the ritual washing of cups, pots and plates. So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked him, «Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders, but eat with unclean hands?». Jesus answered, «You, shallow people! How well Isaiah prophesied of you when he wrote: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, for what they teach are only human rules’. You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast to human tradition».
Jesus then called the people to him again and said to them, «Listen to me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes out from within that makes unclean». And He went on, «What comes out of a person is what defiles, for evil designs come out of the heart: theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean».
«You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast to human tradition»
Fr. Josep Lluís SOCÍAS i Bruguera
(Badalona, Barcelona, Spain)
Today, the Word of the Lord helps us to discern that over and above our human usages we have to place God’s Commandments. In fact, as time goes by, it is easy for us to distort the evangelic advice and, willingly or not, replace the Commandments or engulf them in a punctilious meticulousness: «They eat anything when they come from the market without first washing themselves. And there are many other traditions they observe, for example, the ritual washing of cups, pots and plates…» (Mk 7:4). This is why plain people, with their typical common sense, paid little attention to the doctors of the Law or to the Pharisees, who were putting more emphasis on their human speculations than on God’s Word. To the religious hypocrite Jesus applies Isaiah’s prophetic complaint («You, shallow people! How well Isaiah prophesied of you when he wrote: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me»: Mk 7:6).
When these last years, Saint John Paul II, in the name of the Church, expressed his sorrow for all the negative things that her children had done throughout history, he did it by saying that «we had separated from the Gospel».
Jesus tells us: «Nothing that enters one from outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes out from within that makes unclean» (Mk 7:15). What comes out of a man’s heart, from a person’s conscious seclusion, is what can make us bad. This malice is what harms Mankind and us specifically. Religiosity does not consist precisely in washing our hands (remember Pilate who delivers Jesus Christ to be crucified!), but in keeping our heart pure.
Speaking positively, this is what St. Therese of Lisieux tells us in her Biographic Manuscripts: «Considering the mystical body of the Church (…) I understood that the Church has a heart and that this heart was burning with love». From a loving heart springs the well done deeds that help precisely those who really need help («For I was hungry and you gave me food…»: Mt 25:35).