Gospel Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23
You put aside the commandment of God, to cling to human traditions
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 man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, 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 man unclean.’
Introductory Prayer: Lord God, I come from dust and to dust I shall return. You, however, existed before all time, and every creature takes its being from you. You formed me in my mother’s womb with infinite care, and you watch over me tenderly. I hope you will embrace my soul at my death to carry me home to heaven to be with you forever. Thank you for looking upon me and blessing me with your love. Take my love in return. I humbly offer you all that I am.
Petition: Lord, give me confidence in the power of your grace.
Look at the Real Dangers: Christ feared nothing. He wasn’t afraid of Satan. He wasn’t afraid of public opinion. He wasn’t afraid of the narrow road and hard path. Even though it would cause him to sweat blood, he wasn’t even afraid to fulfil his Father’s plan for him as the Suffering Servant. Through his words and way of life, he was constantly encouraging his followers to watch out for dangers and to pray not to be put to the test. He knows that there are real dangers out there: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (Matthew 5:29). “Woe to him who scandalizes one of these little ones” (cf. Matthew 18:6). “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:6). “Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). Christ will always point out for me the real dangers that exist in my life.
I Will Not Take Them from You: Christ clearly warns us, and our own experience confirms, that God normally will not remove these dangers from our lives. These dangers will usually remain whether they be exterior — “Father, I ask not that you remove them from this world” — or interior. When St. Paul would ask Christ to remove the thorn from his side, Christ simply replies, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In the thick of these sufferings, it is hard for us to understand why God would permit them. But maybe we can find some reason in Christ’s words today. May it never be said of a Christian: “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Suffering and hardship often keep our heart close to Christ.
I Will Give You the Grace to Overcome Them: Very much aware of both the internal and external dangers that would await them, Christ was not afraid to send his apostles out into the world. He sends us out as “sheep among wolves” (cf. Matthew 10:16) into a world that will “hate you as it hated me” (cf. Matthew 24:9). He distributes his divine word and precious grace to the world through us, fragile earthen vessels. Through his Vicar on Earth, he tells us, “Be not afraid.” Moreover, he expects us to produce one hundred-fold and give fruits that will last. What is the key to his confidence? The key is the humble person who is ever ready to look inwardly and purify his heart from the smallest attachment, the slightest impurity, making it an acceptable dwelling place for Christ. What…who…can separate us from the love of Christ? What is there to fear but those “evils that come from within and defile?”
Conversation with Christ: Thank you, Lord, for reminding me about the beauty of being your friend, and at the same time about the awesome responsibility that goes along with it. Please give me the generosity to live my role as your ambassador and help me to continually spread your message of love with all that I do.
Resolution: I will set aside some time today and ask Christ to help me identify any attachments to sin in my heart. I will write them down and look for concrete ways to purify my heart from them.
All of today’s readings pertain to law. We Americans are a fairly litigious society. Lawyers are thick on the ground and many of our Founding Fathers were students of law. We have a kind of love-hate relationship with the law, like most people in history. Today’s readings offer a key lesson: whenever we reverence something, we surround it with laws. Laws protect the integrity of good things. And for the saints, the law of God is planted within their hearts.