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».
We all see what we wish to see. The teachers of the law look where the law is honored or neglected. Jesus, the giver of life guides us towards the essentials of life; God and man. We must discern at every moment of life and prioritize our value systems, our words and actions, including our emotions, feelings and the way we would like to apply them or exercise or express them.
If we remain with the Lord in perfect contemplation, respecting the life and the giver of life, this union with God, the source of life, will point us in the right direction, where we need to give attention. With God we can act freely, discerning according to divine will, and the Lord will give us the necessary courage to put our decisions into practice.
Jesus is not against tradition. However, if we give priority to tradition, by ignoring God and his people, we lose the essentials of life and we will make terrible mistakes in our discernment. Tradition for tradition's sake cannot serve God, like very good value system, which against love and charity, which will risk in perpetuating pride, at our own peril.
Action of the day: Identify the essentials of life.
«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”.