In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the accusation of the Pharisees against His disciples to expose their hypocrisy and self-centered approach to the Jewish Law.
The Pharisees were scandalized that Jesus’ disciples did not follow the tradition of the elders and ate food without washing their hands before the meal. But the “tradition of the elders” was a burdensome extension of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses commanded the washing of hands before offering sacrifices and eating part of the sacrifice(Exodus 30:17-21; Numbers 18:11-13). This command, however, was extended, by the tradition of the elders, to every meal. According to the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, every meal was a religious act and, therefore, required the ritual washing of hands.
Jesus calls out the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. By clinging to and giving more importance to human tradition, the Pharisees disregard the heart of God’s commandments and nullified the Word of God. Jesus invokes a prophecy from Isaiah 29:10-24 that accuses the people of substituting superficial religious practice for true obedience to God’s will and authentic worship. Jesus applies this prophecy to the Pharisees who hypocritically neglect the care of their aging parents by pledging to dedicate their wealth to the Temple.
Jesus gave an example of how their use of ritual tradition excused them from fulfilling the commandment to honor one's father and mother. They broke God's law to fulfill a law of their own making. 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.
We need to remember that authentic religious practice and worship must be built on the love of God above all things and love for our neighbor. We must rid ourselves of any hypocritical actions. We are hypocrites and liars if we say and act like we love God and yet neglect to care for those around us with love (1 John 4:20). 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. The Lord invites us to draw near to Him and to feast at His banquet table.
Today’s Question for Prayer and Reflection
With God’s help, how can I rid myself of hypocrisy today?