The Gospel of Mark (7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23) reminds us that traditions, laws and ceremonies are important in our lives. However, what is far more important for us is to have a pure heart, filled with ‘Love’ which is the core of God’s Law.
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law had always followed the laws with their empty outward actions, without reviewing their hearts. These leaders focused on inconsequential matters like ritual washing (of hands, cups and pitchers) too much. Truly, they put those things in place and made it as if it was for God’s glory, to distinguish themselves from others.
Nevertheless, they regarded the love for God and neighbours with contempt. Their hearts were actually ruled by covetousness and ambition.
As a result, they excluded those who did not keep the traditions, and discouraged them from coming to God. For that reason, Jesus borrowed the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah and rebuked them: “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”.
The words of Jesus are a warning for us. They remind us not to put on ourselves the mere external action of complying with the law, because God looks at the heart. Our compliance with the commandments of God should come from a pure heart and with sincere affection, which will reflect the external actions and cause them to have a supernatural value.
May we have the grace of a sincere and pure heart so that whatever we might do will be pleasing to God.
Fr Tang Phan