“Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people,” ……… “Do not neglect them (others) for plans which can be seductive, but are unconcerned about the face of the person beside you.” – Pope Francis: (Homily in Cuba September 2015)
Gospel Text: (MK 7:1-13)
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 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.”
In life, man has the natural tendency to seek order, familiarity and continuity. He establishes and implements rules in an attempt to avoid chaos. Oftentimes however, because of all too human imperfections, his zealousness and his over-emphasis on processes rather than purpose, lead him to forget the rationale for the creation of laws in the first place.
Jesus was well aware of this annoying predilection hence his frustration with the Pharisees and teachers of the law when they gave more importance to rituals even before considering what motivated the disciples of Jesus to act the way they did.
Jesus wanted to keep things simple. He taught us the "The Lord's Prayer," the perfect guide on how to talk with Him. Obey the Ten Commandments as the way to conduct our lives. He gave us the Eucharist as the highest form of worship and bonding with God.
Jesus did not suggest that we disregard proper laws, rituals and practices. Far from it. He insisted on being baptized by John the Baptist. He admonished people to pay the appropriate taxes to Caesar. Even if it meant His own death, Jesus respected Pilate's responsibility as Roman Procurator.
His message is clear: Rules should not distract us from their ultimate goal, serving and loving humanity. If we serve the rules and do not serve people by the implementation of those very same rules, we too are acting just like the Pharisees in today’s gospel.
Let us pray that we be blessed with clarity of mind and heart in our daily struggles to be good and holy people.