September 2, 2018: Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
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 summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.
“From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Most all of us have been steeped in traditions from our birth. Our families, our religious beliefs, our group of friends have all played an integral part in what we hold as vital within the culture we have been brought up in. Sitting at our dining room table when I was growing up, there were certain seats where each one sat, the pew that we occupied at church, how we celebrated the holidays in our home. All were held as traditions that we considered almost sacred.
Mark describes some of the ceremonial practices of the Pharisee’s. These traditions set them apart and made them feel that to belong, this was what must be practiced. These were oral traditions, which came down through their ancestors. It was very disconcerting that Jesus’ disciples would not follow along. The Pharisees challenged Jesus, by using their oral tradition, as a standard by which to evaluate the actions of what his disciples should also do.
Traditions only become harmful when we let them take precedence over God’s great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach us that the people should not be set apart because of their particular traditions, ethnicity, or religious belief, but all should be embraced as the family of God.
Gather with family members or neighbors of other traditions and ethnicities, Share and explain your different traditions. Celebrate and honor your differences.