“The Lord measures out perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, but by the manner in which we perform them.” -St. John of the Cross
(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.”
One could call this the last gasp of Ordinary time as the Church anticipates the Season of Lent. Rich foods are consumed as pilgrims prepare for times of fasting, abstinence, confession and penance. Today is Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday." Usually we think of New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro around this time but for Catholics, Fat Tuesday needs to be viewed as a time of anticipation not debauchery. While we can eat well, which has always been a tradition, today is a day of farewell. We say goodbye to our old norm and prepare our hearts for a Holy Lent.
Farewell should also be considered a more permanent state. Hopefully, we will be changed when we exit at Easter. Self-examination, abstinence and confession, when combined with the additions of formative spiritual disciplines, should result in a life more holy than it was.
The question(s) we should ask ourselves is this: Are we more formed in the image of Christ after Lent than we were before? Do we have our hearts and minds looking more at heaven and less at our material lives? Our prayer life should be richer and more disciplined and our relationships strengthened, both with God and man.
Today is a day of goodbyes. Looking toward the future, some things left behind should not be welcomed again.
As for today’s gospel passage. When I reflected upon it, what came to my mind was, I have always believed that actions speak louder than words, and by saying this I know that I have been a hypocrite numerous times, some times daily!. For an example, it is so frustrating to me when I say that I am a Catholic, but I am extremely impatient with people. I also get very angry when I am driving. Another example of how I can be a hypocrite is not obeying Jesus’ rule to “love one another” (in thought and action) in every and all encounters throughout my day.
I am slowly learning.
May we all love one another, honor the Lord with our actions and words, and keep our hearts close to him.
That is a good goal for Lent!