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». And Jesus commented, «You have a fine way of disregarding the commandment of God in order to implant your own tradition. For example, Moses said: ‘Do your duty to your father and your mother’, and: ‘Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death’. But according to you someone could say to his father or mother: ‘I already declared Corban, which means "offered to God," what you could have expected from me’. In this case, you no longer let him do anything for a father or mother. So you nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on. And you do many other things like that».
The interlocutors of Jesus seem to have misunderstood Jesus and the orientation given by Jesus to His disciples. An act considered as revolutionary and contrary to the established rules and customs, approved by the religious elites of the society, who are the right people to interpret the law of the people of God, is totally ignored by Jesus, who interprets the same law established by the tradition, as erroneous and against the divine will.
What exactly Jesus is telling to his interlocutors? Simply asking them to fall back to the original law established by Moses, and inviting them to relook their own interpretation, which is against the law established by God, even to the ordinary human understanding of life.
Without justifying or denying the ignorance of his disciples, concerning the purification rite, Jesus is inviting us to orient our thoughts and deeds, to be coherent to the divine will, filled with love and compassion. It is here that we are called to give attention and importance. Shall we fall back to the essential of Christian life: Charity?
Daily Quote from the early church fathers:
Mammon refuses to provide for parents in old age, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)
"Christ says, 'Care for the poor' (Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 14:13); Mammon says, 'Take away even those things the poor possess.' Christ says, 'Empty yourself of what you have' (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23); Mammon says, 'Take also what they possess.' Do you see the opposition, the strife between them? See how it is that one cannot obey both, but must reject one?... Christ says, 'None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions' (Luke 14:33); Mammon says, 'Take the bread from the hungry.' Christ says, 'Cover the naked' (Matthew 25:34-40; Isaiah 58:7); the other says, 'Strip the naked.' Christ says, 'You shall not turn away from your own family (Isaiah 58:7), and those of your own house' (1 Timothy 5:8; Galatians 6:10); Mammon says, 'You shall not show mercy to those of your own family. Though you see your mother or your father in want, despise them' (Mark 7:11)." (excerpt from HOMILIES ON PHILIPPIANS 6.25)
«Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders»
Fr. Iñaki BALLBÉ i Turu
(Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain)
Today, we are given to see how some late traditions of the Masters of the Law had actually manipulated the true meaning of the Fourth Commandment of God's Law. Those scribes taught that sons offering money and goods to the Temple were doing well. But, according to these teachings, parents could no longer ask or dispose of these goods. And the sons educated in such conscience were, thus, under the wrong impression of having more than well accomplished with the Fourth Commandment. But, in fact, it was just a deception.
«You have a fine way of disregarding the commandment of God in order to implant your own tradition!» (Mk 7:9): Jesus Christ is the authentic interpreter of divine Law; this is why He explained the right meaning of the Fourth Commandment, by undoing the sad mistake of their jewish fanatism.
«Moses said: ‘Do your duty to your father and your mother’» (Mk 7:10): the Fourth Commandment reminds all sons the responsibilities they have with their parents. They have to help them, both morally and materially, to the best of their possibilities, during their aging days and when they are facing times of illness, loneliness or anguish. Jesus points out quite clearly this duty of gratitude.
The respect towards our elders (filial piety) is made out of the gratitude they deserve for the gift they have given us, i.e. our life, and for the sacrifices made for their sons to grow up in age, wisdom and grace. «With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. Remember that through your parents you were born; and what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?» (Sir 7:27-28).
The Lord honors the father in his children, and in them, also confirms the mother's right. «He who honors his father atones for sins; he obeys the Lord who brings comfort to his mother» (cf. Sir 3:2-6). These and other words of advice are a clear light for our life en relation to our parents. Let us ask our Lord the grace that we never lack the true love we owe our parents and always know, with our example, how to transmit our fellowmen this sweet “obligation”.