Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
And to learn trust, faith.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice in the midst of trouble.
Help me to follow you in all of life,
To walk in the joy and freedom of the resurrection,
Indwelt and led by your Pentecost Spirit.
Fourteenth Sunday of Pentecost: Week 17 Ordinary Time
The conversation begins as our guides on this gospel pilgrimage lead us into villages and farms near the north end of lake Galilee. Simon Peter invites us into the narrative in Mark 7.
The Pharisees and the scribes are also watching. However, their attention is fixed on guarding the religious rituals and traditions which Jesus’ followers do not observe. These religious leaders gather around Jesus and ask, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” In response Jesus chooses to address what lays at the root of their question and their practice, and he says, “Isaiah prophesied rightly 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 human precepts as doctrines.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Here Jesus clearly and incisively lays open the condition of their lives. Worship has become meaningless word-service because the heart is distant, standing apart from God. Hardness of heart reveals itself in lack of spiritual insight, and in attitudes and behaviors which diminish and deny others, and serve the self. These religious leaders have tied religious observance to rules which govern the keeping of the law, negating the spirit and intent of God’s way. This human tradition becomes a heavy burden laid upon the shoulders of the people, paying tight and meticulous attention to outward matters, but ignoring the hunger and needy condition of the heart.
The Pharisees labeled those who did not believe and practice as they did as unclean, defiled – – and therefore as untouchable, and unfit to attend worship.
Jesus calls the crowds and offers them teaching designed to free them from the untruths and heavy burden: “There is nothing outside a persons that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” He is showing that all foods are clean. But he is also revealing the inner space, the heart. “It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.” Jesus goes on to name the evil which comes from within the human interior.
Here he confronts us with our need for a deeper cleansing than the ritual washing of hands. We need a cleansing within the interiority of who we are: within the heart.
We are powerless to rid ourselves of the toxic mix which contaminates our interior. Only Jesus can do this. Paul, in his confession of struggle in Romans 7:14- 8:2 reveals how impossible it is for us to find freedom from what holds us captive. He cries out: “Who will rescue me? “ It is then that he announces the great freedom cry: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Jesus comes to rescue us from our captivity to sin and death.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us
In the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Help me to be aware of how you come,
To be hospitable to your help,
To your patient work of freeing me from all that holds me captive.
Lead me in the way of Jesus.
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 17 in Ordinary Time
- 8/27 Monday: Mark 7:1-8
- 8/28 Tuesday: Mark 7:14-15,21-23
- 8/29 Wednesday: Psalm 45:1-2,6-9
- 8/30 Thursday: Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-9
- 8/31 Friday: James 1:17-27
- 9/1 Saturday: Mark 7:1-8
- 9/2 Sunday: Mark 7:14-15,21-23