It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbor. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God, and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live. – Mother Teresa
Gospel Text: (MK 7:1-13)
One day the Pharisees gathered around Jesus and with them were some teachers of the Law who had just come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of his dis¬ciples were eating their meal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. Now the Pharisees, and in fact, all the Jews, never eat without washing their hands for they fol¬low the tradition received from their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything when they come from the market without first washing themselves. And there are many other traditions they observe, for example, the ritual washing of cups, pots and plates.
So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked him, «Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders, but eat with unclean hands?». Jesus answered, «You, shallow people! How well Isaiah prophesied of you when he wrote: ‘This peo¬ple honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, for what they teach are only human rules’. You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast to human tradition». And Jesus commented, «You have a fine way of dis¬regarding the commandment of God in order to implant your own tradition. For example, Moses said: ‘Do your duty to your father and your mother’, and: ‘Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death’. But according to you someone could say to his father or mother: ‘I already declared Corban, which means "offered to God," what you could have expected from me’. In this case, you no longer let him do anything for a father or mother. So you nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on. And you do many other things like that».
One Sunday a man sat through a church service and then on the way home he fussed about the sermon, he griped about the traffic, he complained about the heat, and he made a big fuss about how late the lunch meal was served. Then he bowed and prayed, giving God thanks for the food.
His son was watching him all the way through this post-church experience. Just as they were beginning to pass the food he said, “Daddy, did God hear you when we left the church and you started fussin’ about the sermon and about the traffic and about the heat?”
The father blushed and said, “Well, yes, son, He heard me.”
“Well, Daddy, did God hear you when you just prayed for this food right now?”
And he says, “Well, yes, son, He … He … He heard me.”
“Well, Daddy, which one did God believe?”
That little story showcases a problem that afflicts far too many church people. Too often what we claim to be and what we really are is miles apart. We call this condition “hypocrisy”.
Some people claim there are too many hypocrites in the church. I say there aren’t as many as they claim. It is just an excuse they use for not coming to church. When you hear that kind of talk just say, “Oh come on, one more won’t make any difference”.
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus has an encounter with a whole group of hypocrites. They have come from Jerusalem, which was like the Vatican of its day. They came to watch Jesus in order to find fault with Him and His ministry. When they arrive and begin to watch Jesus, it does not take them long to find something to complain about.
These men see the disciples of Jesus eating food without washing their hands and they are offended. They attack Jesus over this issue, but He turns the tables on them. They think the issue is one of clean hands, but Jesus shows them that the issue is really about clean hearts.
This text has something to say to us today. We still have those people who are more concerned about clean hands than they are about clean hearts. Jesus is going to teach us that the inside of a person should match the outside of that person. He is going to teach us that what we are in our heart is what we really are! He is going to teach us that hypocrisy and legalism have no place in our lives. He is going to teach us that true defilement comes from the inside not from the outside!