Tuesday, February 9 ~ Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Holy Gospel: Mark 7:1-3 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?” He responded, “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.”
Meditation: The Scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of breaking their ritual traditions. Jesus deals with the accusation by going to the heart of the matter – by looking at God’s intention and purpose for the commandments. Jesus explains that they void God’s command because they allow their hearts and minds to be clouded by their own notions of religion. Jesus accuses them specifically of two things. First of hypocrisy. Like actors, who put on a show, they appear to obey God’s word in their external practices while they inwardly harbor evil desires and intentions. Secondly, he accuses them of abandoning God’s word by substituting their own arguments and interpretations of what God requires us to do. They paid more attention to their own legal arguments rather than God’s word. Jesus refers them to the prophecy of Isaiah (29:31) where the prophet accuses the people of his day for honoring God with their lips while their hearts were far away from choosing and doing what God asked of them. If we listen to God’s word with faith and reverence, it will both enlighten our mind and purify the hearts – thus enabling us to better understand how he wants us to love and obey him.
Prayer: Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care, that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace, they may be defended always by your protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: Jesus and his disciples apparently upset some of the religious leaders of Jerusalem who had invited them over for dinner. What did they do wrong? They apparently neglected the Jewish custom of washing their hands before eating. Such an offence was not only bad table manners, but it also caused ritual impurity for the religious-minded Jews. Jesus was publicly scolded as a rabbi who should have known better to instruct his disciples to keep themselves ritually clean. Jesus’ response, however, caught his hosts off guard. Jesus turned the table on his accusing hosts by chiding them for their uncleanness of heart. The Lord invites each of us to draw near to him and to feast at his banquet table. Do you approach with a clean heart and mind? Ask the Lord to cleanse and renew you with the purifying fire of his Holy Spirit.
Lent begins tomorrow: We should remember that Lent is not an isolated personal affair of our own. The Church avails herself of the whole of the mystery of redemption. We belong to an immense concourse, a great body in which we are united to the whole of humanity which has been redeemed by Christ. The liturgy of this season does not fail to remind us of it. This, then, is the meaning of Lent for us: a season of deepening spirituality in union with the whole Church which thus prepares to celebrate the Paschal mystery. Each year, following Christ its Head, the whole Christian people takes up with renewed effort its struggle against evil, against Satan and the sinful man that each one of us bears within himself, in order at Easter to draw new life from the very springs of divine life and to continue its progress towards heaven.
(Excerpted from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal)