Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: 1Kngs 8:22-23, 27-30
Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of the whole community of Israel, and stretching forth his hands toward heaven, he said, “LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below; you keep your covenant of mercy with your servants who are faithful to you with their whole heart. “Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built! Look kindly on the prayer and petition of your servant, O LORD, my God, and listen to the cry of supplication which I, your servant, utter before you this day. May your eyes watch night and day over this temple, the place where you have decreed you shall be honored; may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place. Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer in this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”
Gospel: Mk 7:1-13
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.”
FIRST THINGS FIRST: For all the religions, tradition comes second to the sacred writings. This means that the Sacred Scripture is the basic and concrete living expression of the divine teaching. At the same time it is necessary to realise that if traditions are not checked and purified constantly, they can easily accumulate more and more of human elements and less and less of Divine intentions thus deviating from the original purpose. The Pharisees and scribes who came all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to examine Jesus accuse his disciples of failing to honour the traditions of the elders. Jesus’ reply is to the point: “You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He substantiates it explaining how their tradition went against the commandment of God. Are we ready to critically examine our traditions out of love for God and our people, and so remain in God’s path?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the courage and humility to make a critical study of our traditions and help us not to be deceived by sweet sounding words like “our tradition”.
UNWELCOME REGRESSIONS: The tyranny of traditions propagated by those in power and pushed down the throats of the rest, often has little to offer by way of values and ideals. The flood of extreme information conditions us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal. The heavy flow of being exceptional makes us feel worse about ourselves attracting us towards attempts to be extreme, radical and more self-assured to get noticed. We fail to see God in the majority of life that happens in the ordinary, everyday life experiences. In so doing we try to play gods, and so get drunk within our successes. Jesus did not seek greatness in the extraordinary; He sought the will of His Father. May we learn from Him. “The son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mt.20:28). This is God’s will for us as we interact with His creation.
SAY NO TO HYPOCRISY: God created human beings in his image and likeness (Gen 1:27). This requires that we pay due respect and reverence to all people, and look at oneself as a part of God himself. In this sense, St. Paul would find in everyone the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19). This is why Jesus insisted on the importance of the individual person and was very bold to break the meaningless traditions and rules of his time in favour of the wellbeing of the individual. Laws and traditions are important to guide and save individuals from danger, but if they function as a hindrance to grow in our inner freedom and sense of belonging, we become slaves to them and gradually lose our respect for others. Legalistic attitudes will lead us to a critical approach to others. It is also reveals the hypocrisy hidden in the hearts of the people.