Jesus knew and understood humanity. Throughout his childhood and then in his ministry, he would have witnessed the strange and unfortunate interplay so prevalent in humanity between following religious regulations and not actually loving each other. It occurred throughout the regions where Jesus lived and it occurs now in the 21st century.
We humans hang our lives, our words, our actions, our relationships, on ceremony and regulations. We have a natural affinity with following a certain way of life. But, sometimes, we forget that the way we live is only thus because we are going forward towards another place. These ceremonies are indications of our inner beliefs.
Yet, we are at risk of worshipping the signposts rather than simply observing where they are pointing and walking that way. Jesus took many of the religious leaders to task for worshipping the signposts and forgetting about where they were pointing. And, what we see in ancient Israel and Palestine we also see in the world and in the Church in 2021.
Two thousand years ago Our Lord introduced a new commandment. In all of his earthly ministry it was his single commandment, and it was to love one another. What Christ saw in his ministry was a slavish adherence to human laws and regulations and ceremony, all stemming from religious fervour yet thwarting the effects of love. Are we liable to make the same mistakes as those follows of God, who made their lives into a search for him yet forgot him through the complex mesh of our devotions? Yes, of course we are. Are we at risk of forgetting to love one another because we prefer to concentrate on ceremony and liturgy? Yes, we are.
The way forward, in terms of how we guard against become modern-day scribes and Pharisees, is to listen to Jesus, to heed and to emulate his actions and words, to align ourselves with his stance. We cannot do this without loving each other on a frankly powerful and painful level, because that is what he did for us. He is our beacon through which we can become lights of his grace. There is no easy way to do this; the lives of the saints – and even Christ’s life – can tell us that. But we can listen to him through the Gospel and do all we can to do as he did, and to remain open to daily reconversion to his will.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
Glory to you, O Lord.
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returnihg from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which nave been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’
He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.
He called the people to him again and said,
‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean.
For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.
All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.”
The Gospel of the Lord Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.