Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
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 disciples 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 follow 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 people 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.”
Jesus then called the people to him again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes out from within that makes a person unclean.
For evil designs come out of the heart: theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.”
READ: The religious leaders of Israel asked Jesus why His disciples were not following the tradition of the elders by not practicing ritual acts of purity such as the washing of hands before eating while coming from the market. Jesus in reply explained to them what real uncleanness means, that is, all sinful acts of a person that comes from his or her mind and heart enacted externally.
REFLECT: External acts are markers that convey what is happening in the internal forum of a person, what the person thinks, feels or desires. In the case of the ritual acts of purity performed by every devout Jew, it is done to remain pure and holy in the sight of Yahweh. But this desire for ritual purity must have a basis in our daily lives. Acting out the ritual is no substitute for a life lived in holiness. The actions become empty and devoid of meaning. Holiness becomes a production number and a sham. This is what Jesus tried to tell the religious leaders: that ritual acts of holiness for the sake of the action has no salvific import.
RESPOND: What are my own ritual acts that I sometimes substitute for real holiness? Today is a good day to start cleaning up the internal clutter that blocks my path towards holiness. A visit to the confessional box is a good option to follow.
PRAY: Loving Father, direct my time, talent and energies to things that really matter. May I not be fascinated too much by external appearance that I have no time to cleanse my internal space. May I seek holiness mostly from within and may everything I do outside be rooted from within. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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