Sunday, August 29
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
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?”
“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 nothing subtle about this weekend’s readings. They are straightforward and blunt, especially the gospel. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were accusing him of ignoring their laws and traditions. Jesus turns the tables on them and told them they were missing the main point of what religion is all about. Besides contradicting some of God’s laws, Jesus condemned them because they stressed only external observance. Jesus reminds them (and us) that true religion is about a change of heart.
In our society, we encounter an overwhelming number of rules, laws, recommendations, and guidelines, some from God, some from our religious leaders, and many from government and civil authority. Without all these civilizations cannot survive. Without law there is chaos and anarchy. We live in a society where too many people think freedom means doing whatever they want without having to answer to any authority. No question, we must balance the restrictions that laws and rules place upon us with the freedom we want to enjoy. However, this requires maturity to be able to keep that balance and most of us manage to do a fairly good job at that.
Jesus instructs us in this weekend’s gospel to live freely under the law of love. We should not delude ourselves or judge others but instead live as those who both hear the word of God and keep it. As we attend Mass this weekend and approach the altar of the Lord let us open our whole selves to the One who can create a pure heart and a steadfast spirit within us.
-Deacon Frank Iannarino