Chinese Mass：Every Sunday 2:15 p.m.
Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)
After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering
Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)
Talk and discussion meeting First Monday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church
[1st Reading – Dt.4:1-2,6-8; Ps.14; 2nd Reading – Jm.1:17-18,21-22,27; Gospel – Mk.7:1-8,14-15,21-23]
“… TRADITIONS …”
Strictly speaking, the Pharisees and those who had come from Jerusalem were quite right in lamenting about Jesus’ disciples eating without having washed their arms because it is not hygienic and furthermore it is not in accordance with the Tradition. In order to understand what triggered Jesus’ response, we need to take a closer look at this theme of “Tradition”.
Jesus was not against traditions – he himself lived with and observed these traditions too. However, he was against the way in which these human traditions have extinguished the source from which they originated, that so much emphasis was placed on human traditions that the original underlying reason for these traditions became forgotten or ignored i.e. the outward appearance grew to such an extent that they put “their origin” in the shadow. The external cleaning of the arms, as stipulated by the Tradition, should also be an outward sign of internal cleanliness i.e. that of a clean and pure heart. So, while the Pharisees made a big fuss over the non-traditional approach of Jesus’ disciples (which they were entitled to do so!), Jesus was fully aware of the hypocritical nature of these Scribes and Pharisees (which Jesus was quite right to point out!).
We are told that those gathered around Jesus were Pharisees and Scribes who had come from Jerusalem – strong defenders of Law and Tradition. They came from Jerusalem, the holy city, so Tradition to them was “non plus ultra” and their “tradition of the elders” observation was the direct result of their formation. However, they gathered around Jesus in order to find something they could cling to, an “excuse” to get rid of Him. They were so keen on noticing the need of observing the Tradition and the Law, that they have quite forgotten that the Law and the Tradition had other things to be observed through which one can truly have a pure heart. If one’s heart is pure, then one does not have evil intentions. Evil intentions come straight from the heart. Jesus’ disciples may not have washed their arms “as far as the elbow” but at least their hearts were pure. In contrast, the Pharisees and the Scribes from Jerusalem may have washed their hands in exact accordance as that stipulated by Tradition and Law, but their hearts were full of evil intentions, and Jesus was fully aware of when he listed them: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly … All the things that led the Pharisees and the Scribes to want to eliminate Jesus – something which in fact they did!
Sometimes we too attach ourselves to traditions which we know neither where they came from nor what/where they should lead to – and we’re not just talking about traditions in the religious sense – traditions that sometimes shun aside God’s commandments and we end up honouring God only with lip service while in our hearts we are far away from Him.
“Lord, when we pray to You and when we come to worship You, quite often we find ourselves doing so with lip service only and more often than not we are far from creating this true relationship with You in our hearts. During these holy moments, although we use words that are strong in their meaning, they become just uttered sounds. Lord, give us the knowledge to truly discover You in our hearts! Thanks You Lord!”
Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.
(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo http://www.stpatrickwaterloo.org.uk/ )