Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."
Today is Tuesday the 11th February, in the fifth week of Ordinary time.
The Sons of Korah sing Psalm 32: Blessed is he whose sin is forgiven.
Today’s reading is from the Gospel of Mark.
“You abandon the commandment of God,” Jesus tells the Scribes and Pharisees, “and hold to human tradition.” But how are we supposed to tell the difference? Over the centuries many disputes have arisen over this question – and many schisms too! Religion and human tradition are so closely tied up together. But how do you distinguish? How, in practice, do you tell the difference between the commandments of God and ‘human traditions’?
In the world around you, where do you see people “teaching human precepts as doctrines”? Where do you see God’s commandments being neglected in favour of ‘human traditions’?
As you hear the reading again, can you get a sense of what it is that Jesus objects to? Is it the big deal the Pharisees make of it? The way they bring religious language into it? The way they make religious rules about things that are just ordinary common sense?
What feelings has hearing these challenging words of Jesus stirred up in you? Do you feel angry? Challenged? Uncomfortable? Uncertain? Confused? Whatever your thoughts and feelings are, bring them before the Lord now, speaking to him, and listening to him, in complete honesty and openness.