Gospel Reflection: Twenty-Second Sunday In Ordinary Time
Malvern Minute



AUGUST 30, 2015


Alleluia, Alleluia.

The Father will give us birth by the word of truth

that we may be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Alleluia, Alleluia.

The Gospel of Saint Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.   For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.  And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves.  And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.

So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”

He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.  You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.   Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.

From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile.”

The Gospel of the Lord



Now that we have finished our five week reflection on the feeding of the multitude and the teaching on the Bread of life from Saint John’s Gospel, we return to Saint Mark’s Gospel, the Gospel assigned for this year.  We pick up where we left off in Mark’s Gospel, and we will continue reading from this Gospel until Advent.  This Sunday Jesus challenges his hearers (past and present) to resist giving God mere lip-service:

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me!

On one of my visits to Jerusalem, I was alone on a Sunday night and decided to have dinner at a kosher restaurant.  While there I witnessed the practices identified in today’s Gospel of people scrupulously washing their hands up to their elbows with water from copper cups so they would be purified before eating their dinner.

Jesus was not explicitly objecting to this purification ritual which was also good hygiene, but was challenging that a mere tradition of the elders was being taught by the Pharisees as if it were as important as the Law of God.  But, on a deeper level still Jesus was rebelling against a spirituality that would suggest that external observances were enough to insure a good relationship with God.  It is not enough to perform a religious practice no matter how good without heart-felt commitment.

Now, Jesus exercises the fullness of His teaching authority and demands absolute attention: Hear me, all of you, and understand.   Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter and challenges the whole idea that something from outside a person can defile a person.  A true relationship with God depends on our desire to please God in all things and on our actions reflecting that commitment.  Consequently, it is what originates in our hearts and is manifested in our actions that determines good or evil — Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.

There is a persistent tendency throughout salvation history and even in our present day for people to reduce faith to a mere adherence to regulations and practices.  I guess blindly performing religious devotions can make one feel spiritually secure.  Although, this is a false security!  Our spiritual stability, true religion is rooted in a real relationship with God in and through the person of Jesus.  Each day we attempt to intensify this loving relationship, not merely perform rituals.  Actions do speak louder than words, but my religious actions must emanate from a heart that desires to love God above all things.  Our religion is about a person, Jesus Christ.  Our faith is in a person, Jesus Christ and not in mere observances.


Consider joining the Men and Women of Malvern by deepening your personal relationship with Jesus and your commitment as a disciple through a weekend retreat.  See our website for details: MalvernRetreat.com


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