In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the accusations of the Pharisees to highlight two ways in which they have strayed from God’s love. These so-called holy men of God are an example for us to be on guard unless we too follow a similar path.
The first sin of the Pharisees that we must avoid in our faith life is hypocrisy. The Pharisees present themselves as models of holiness in their exterior acts but have abandoned God in their hearts. They profess to know how God wants the people to obey His Laws, but their interpretations make it more difficult for the people to practice their faith. Worshipping God is not meant to be difficult.
As Catholics, we must be careful that our prayer practices are not all that we do to worship God. Our prayer life is meant to soften our hearts and lead us to worship God through our loving acts toward others. It is our love toward others that will inspire them to seek God in prayer. Having certain prayer practices forced upon them by those so-called “devout” Catholics reveals and creates a hardened heart.
The second sin of the Pharisees was their abandonment of the Commandment of God, loving Him and others, and the creation of their own self-serving traditions. Jesus gave an example of how their use of ritual traditions they created excused them from fulfilling God’s commandment to honor one's father and mother. 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.
So many Catholics today abandon God’s law and create their own more convenient traditions. In the creation story from Genesis that we hear in the first reading, “.. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation.” Sunday is supposed to be our day of rest, a time dedicated to resting from our daily work and resting in the heart of Jesus. But many Catholics have decided against keeping Sunday holy, turning away from Jesus by not going to Mass. Instead, they create their own traditions and turn Sunday into the day they worship the god of pleasure and recreation.
Jesus is not concerned that His disciples do not follow the Jewish laws of purification. He knows they have chosen the better practice of following Him and listening to his words and teachings. Jesus is calling us to do the same. Spend time with Him on Sunday at Mass, listening to His Word and being nourished by His Body and Blood.
Today’s Question for Prayer and Reflection
What self-created traditions and practices are preventing you from living out God’s Commandment to love Him and others?