1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30
Ps 84:2-5 and 10-11
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.
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?”
“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.”
Good News Reflection: The love behind the rituals
Oh what a blessing we receive when rituals are changed or taken away, because it makes us analyze why we were doing them in the first place!
Take, for example, what happens when a parish that has always knelt during the Consecration of the Eucharist is told by the pastor that they will stand from now on. There’s usually a big uproar. Why?
Standing is an official posture of respect. That’s why we stand during the reading of the Gospel. Theologically, it signifies that we are an Easter people; the Lord has conquered sin and death and now we live in his risen glory. So why do we stubbornly refuse to accept a change from the kneeling posture to standing?
Personally, I would rather kneel. It reminds me to be humble. Well, can’t I be humble without it? Frankly, Jesus deserves the most respect that we can muster, which means I should lie prostrate on the floor, except I don’t want to draw attention to myself and away from Jesus.
Sadly, there are many Catholics who kneel because everyone else is kneeling, not from genuine, heart-felt reverence for Christ. For them, it’s merely a human tradition. Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading, “This people pays me lip service but their heart is far from me. Empty is the reverence they do me ….”
Every ritual gesture and body posture during Mass should change us. Making the sign of the cross should put us more in touch with the Lord who died on the cross for us. Blessing ourselves with holy water should renew our baptismal connection to God and separate us from the worldliness that’s outside the church. Praying the “Our Father” should unite us to the people next to us.
“Disregarding God’s commandment while clinging to human tradition” occurs whenever we consider a ritual to be more important than a person. In the hierarchy of Church laws, the rules that prescribe most rituals have always been changeable “human traditions” designed to drive home to the heart a true practice of the faith; they are of lesser importance than the unchangeable laws of faith and morality that prescribe how to treat one another.
The bottom-line question is: What are my motives for doing — or not doing — a ritual? Will it increase my humility? Will it enhance my relationship with God and with the community? Does it spring from the heart or is my heart far from God at this moment?
May love rule our rituals and may our actions never be empty tradition!
Deliver me, Lord, from all those things that, though being good in their appearance, take me away from true charity and mercy. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica