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 thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)
So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live 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 making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents a forceful challenge. He confronts overzealousness for traditional rules that may limit the actual realization of God’s love. We live in a Church built upon tradition, sometimes making it easier to focus on the rules than love of God and neighbor. This tendency might become fiercer if we feel threatened in our beliefs.
Christ calls us back to our grounding faith in God. This faith, though grounded, also spurs us forward. Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, head of the Jesuits, often calls us to go to the peripheries where it may be dangerous or scary. Christ reminds us that the Holy Spirit, planted deep in our hearts, travels with us to those very places
In a February 2012 interview, then Cardinal Bergoglio stated, “We need to come out of ourselves and head for the periphery. We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a Church that is wrapped up in its own world: when a Church becomes like this, it grows sick. It is true that going out onto the street implies the risk of accidents happening, as they would to any ordinary man or woman. But if the Church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age. And if I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick withdrawn Church, I would definitely choose the first one.” His words and those of Jesus inspire these questions today:
Do I go to the periphery, guided by the Holy Spirit? Do I adamantly cling to human rules, or open myself to God’s love and presence? Do I share this love with others, opening myself to the danger it presents? Am I honoring God with both my lips and my heart?
—Ken Homan, S.J. is a Jesuit brother from the Wisconsin Province. He is currently studying history and theology at Fordham University, New York.
My God, I wish from now on to be the first to become conscious of all that the world loves, pursues, and suffers.I want to be the first to seek, to sympathize and to suffer; the first to unfold and sacrifice myself, to become more widely human and more nobly of the earth than of any of the world’s servants.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Pray for us!