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Preparing for the Third Sunday after Pentecost: One Day before Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
Old Testament: Genesis 24:10-52
Gospel: Mark 7:1-13
Psalter: Psalm 100
Old Testament: Exodus 6:28—7:13
Gospel: Mark 7:1-13
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders, and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash, and there are also many other traditions that they observe: the washing of cups and pots and bronze kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly 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 human precepts as doctrines.’
“You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God), then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus nullifying the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this” (Mark 7:1-13).
In Mark 7, Jesus confronts the Pharisees and scribes about their adherence to what he calls human traditions while neglecting the commandments of God. The specific context of this statement is a dispute regarding the practice of ceremonial washing of hands before eating. Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for prioritizing their human-made traditions and rituals over the commandments of God. He accuses them of using those traditions to nullify the true intent and meaning of God’s commandments. By emphasizing acts of purity, such as handwashing, the Pharisees neglected the more significant matters of the heart, such as love, justice, and mercy.
Jesus provides an example to illustrate his point:
“And he said to them: ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, “Honor your father and mother,” and, “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)—then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’”
Jesus highlights how the Pharisees distorted the commandment to honor one’s parents by inventing a tradition called “Corban.” According to Corban, if someone declared their possessions as “devoted to God,” they were exempt from using those possessions to assist their parents. The Pharisees used this tradition to avoid supporting aging parents allowing adult children to give of their wealth to the Temple. For Jesus, this effectively nullifies the commandment to honor them.
Jesus’ critique extends beyond this specific example to the overall behavior of the Pharisees. He emphasizes the importance of genuine devotion to God and adherence to his commandments rather than prioritizing their traditions. Jesus teaches that true righteousness is rooted in the condition of one’s heart and genuine love for God and others.
Jesus is not rejecting the notion of tradition. Indeed, Jesus himself was steeped in Jewish tradition. Jesus insisted on acting in ways that maintain the intent of the law. For Jesus, the law was a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.
PRAYER: Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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