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?”
“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 summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.
“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”
There is a tremendous challenge placed before us in this Sunday’s gospel by St. Mark. The established religious leaders of Jesus’ time focused on the failure of Jesus’ disciples to wash their hands. We all know that it is a good idea to wash our hands before we eat, but in Jesus’ day, failure to do so made a person sinful according to the Pharisees. To that complaint Jesus answers that religion must be a matter of the heart. Only in keeping our hearts filled with compassion can we fulfill the law of Christ.
In the late 1990’s a book entitled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff became quite popular in the “self-help” category. The author was Richard Carlson, a clinical psychologist who had a significant following because of the talks and workshops he developed to help people keep their lives productive, well-adjusted and fulfilling. In this weekend’s gospel, Jesus goes right to the matter of the heart, not the small stuff. He taught about attitudes that his disciples should develop and live, every day of their lives.
In short, we should not sweat the small stuff, we should focus on the heart of our faith. Love of God and love of neighbor should be our core values, our witness to the world.