Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 • Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Second Vatican Council opened up a new way of thinking towards the Jewish people, correcting the previously held, misguided view that they were in some way responsible for the death of Christ. In Nostra aetate the bishops wrote:
True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ. (Para. 4)
It is good to bear this in mind as we approach the thorny issue of the Pharisees and their relationship with Christ. It is manifestly clear from passages such as the Gospel we read today that Jesus came into sharp conflict with them. The tension between them was focused on the interpretation of how faith in God should be lived out. The Pharisees were less concerned about the state of their heart and more concerned on giving an impression of piety. They were focused on the exterior, rather than the interior. Jesus’ teaching always stressed the importance of the heart, the interior life, and that external expressions of faith should be a reflection of what is happening on the inside.
We can appear holy and righteous by fulfilling our religious duties but our hearts can be far from God. We can also be harsh and judgemental towards those who do not practise faith in the way that we do. The Pharisees were not alone in the way they thought. We can be like them ourselves and we can, in the hidden depths of our hearts, think of ourselves as more righteous and holy than others. It was this attitude which Jesus attacked, because we are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God. Furthermore, our faith should make us compassionate, kind and forgiving towards others.
Lord, teach me that I am a sinner in need of your mercy. May the prayer of my heart be, ‘Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 • Psalm 14(15):2-5
James 1:17-18, 21-27 • Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23