Gospel of Mark 7:1-8. 14-15. 21-23
You forget the commandments of God and hold on to human tradition.
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’
He called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a person from outside can make them unclean; it is the things that come out of a person that make them unclean. For it is from within, from a person’s heart, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.’
As the leaders attempt to shame Jesus, I am struck by the love in his response.
Jesus response is clear cut. The human being is good. The intensity of Jesus response gives away this truth. If the human being’s heart is united with him in love then they are complete. Nothing else is needed to make them whole. God’s love and grace is enough.
Then Jesus unpacks the Isaiah scripture. The teachers would have been familiar with it but Jesus explains it in the context of being the one who loves all people. and that the human being can turn away from this love.
He makes it clear that without love we can go astray and uncleanness or impurity are not determined by anything external but by our innermost heart responses when we disconnect Love.
In my prayer, I notice where I am drawn in this scene and what might be an invitation right now.
I pray that our leaders, teachers and in fact all of us in our beautiful but troubled world, not speak with just lip service but open our hearts to love and see the essential goodness in all people and serve each other from loving hearts. Then call it forth the goodness and love in each others hearts rather than judge each other with hearts set in stone and out of fear which leads to inclusivity and hypocrisy.