Pretenders

Scripture Reading

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 went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things.”  
(Mark 7:1-13)

 

Scripture Study

7:1–2 As Jesus is going about his ministry of healing, Pharisees team up with scribes from Jerusalem (see 3:22) to pose an accusatory question. Pharisees were members of a renewal movement that sought to restore God’s favor to Israel by advocating strict observance of the law and total separation from all Gentile defilement. Scribes were professional copyists and scholars of the law, some of whom were also Pharisees. Those from the capital, Jerusalem, probably carried an extra weight of authority. Together they are scandalized to observe how some of Jesus’ disciples ate their meals. The phrase is literally “eat breads,” linking this dispute with the miracle of the five thousand who “ate breads” in 6:35–44. Perhaps it was Jesus’ miraculous provision of bread in the desert (where the crowds had no opportunity to wash their hands) that occasioned the religious leaders’ pious disapproval. The controversy also bears on the post resurrection Church for which Mark is writing, where the burning question was: Are Christians obliged to follow the law and traditions of the Jews? The question is especially urgent in regard to the Church’s mission among the Gentiles, a theme to which the Bread Section often alludes.

7:3 Carefully washing their hands: refers to ritual purification.

7:5 Tradition of the elders: the body of detailed, unwritten, human laws regarded by the scribes and Pharisees to have the same binding force as that of the Mosaic law; cf. Gal 1:14.

7:11 Qorban: a formula for a gift to God, dedicating the offering to the temple, so that the giver might continue to use it for himself but not give it to others, even needy parents.[1]

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who have imposed their interpretation of the Law on the Israelites. Keep in mind that the first Christians and the writers of the first Christian documents were all Jews, or at least people formed by a Jewish thought world. They made sense of Jesus in terms of what were, to them, the Scriptures.

Jesus himself was an observant Jew, and the themes and images of the Holy Scriptures were elemental for him. He presented himself as the one who would not undermine the Law and the Prophets but fulfill them.

All of those social and religious conventions that had effectively divided Israel, he sought to overcome and expose as fraudulent. He reached out to everyone: rich and poor, healthy and sick, saints and sinners. And he embodied the obedience of Israel: “I have come only to do the will of the one who sent me.” “My food is to do the will of my heavenly Father.”

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

 

 

[1] Donald Senior, John J. Collins, and Mary Ann Getty, eds., The Catholic Study Bible, 2nd Ed.: Notes, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1414.