Meditation: What makes a person unclean or unfit to
offer God acceptable worship? The Jews went to great pains to ensure
that their worship would conform to the instructions which God gave to
Moses on Mount Sinai. God's call to his people was a call to holiness:
"be holy, for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2). In their zeal for
holiness many elders developed elaborate traditions which became a
burden for the people to carry out in their everyday lives. The Scribes
and Pharisees were upset with Jesus because he allowed his disciples to
break with their ritual traditions by eating with unclean hands. They
sent a delegation all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to bring their
accusation in a face-to-face confrontation with Jesus.
God's law teaches us how to love God and neighbor in holiness
Jesus dealt with their accusation by going to the heart of the matter - by looking at God's intention and purpose for the commandments. Jesus gave an example of how their use of ritual tradition excused them from fulfilling the commandment to honor one's father and mother. If someone wanted to avoid the duty of financially providing for their parents in old age or sickness they could say that their money or goods were an offering "given over to God" and thus exempt from any claim of charity or duty to help others. They broke God's law to fulfill a law of their own making. Jesus explained that they void God's command because they allowed their hearts and minds to be clouded by their own notions of religion.
Allow God's word to purify your thoughts, intentions, and
Jesus accused them specifically of two things. First of hypocrisy. Like actors, who put on a show, they appear to obey God's word in their external practices while they inwardly harbor evil desires and intentions. Secondly, he accused them of abandoning God's word by substituting their own arguments and ingenious interpretations for what God requires. They listened to clever arguments rather than to God's word. Jesus refers them to the prophecy of Isaiah (29:31) where the prophet accuses the people of his day for honoring God with their lips while their hearts went astray because of their disobedience to God's laws.
If we listen to God's word with faith and reverence, it will both enlighten our mind and purify our heart - thus enabling us to better understand how he wants us to love and obey him rather than love and follow our own unruly desires and wrong behavior. The Lord invites us to draw near to him and to feast at his banquet table. Do you approach with a clean heart and mind? Ask the Lord Jesus to cleanse and renew you with the purifying fire of his Holy Spirit.
"Lord Jesus, let the fire of your Holy Spirit cleanse my mind and my heart that I may love you purely and serve you worthily."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/