Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 4.1-2, 6-8; James 1.17-18, 21-22,27; Mark 7.1-8,14-15, 21-23
Jesus called the crowd to him. “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters into a person from outside can make a person impure; it is the things that come out that defile. It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.” – Mark 7.15
Human beings create rules and routines. People often take the same chairs in a classroom when seats are not assigned. Traffic rules tell drivers to buckle up and bikers to wear helmets. Someone will post a rule at the office when dishes stack up or the refrigerator starts to reek. Rules tend to multiply, and traditions accumulate.
The Pharisees in Sunday’s gospel question why Jesus’ disciples do not follow Jewish traditions about washing their hands. In response Jesus raises a vital question — Are these rules human made or God-given? Do these rules lead people to God? Or, do they create unnecessary burdens?
Rules have proliferated to prevent spreading COVID. Wear masks. Use this stairs down. One person in the bathroom at a time. Six feet apart at the grocery check out. Every other pew in church.
What should be regulated in our world? What about water? Is it one of the resources of creation that belong to everyone? Humans can’t live without it. What about coal and oil, resources that contribute heavily to climate change?
The Pharisees encouraged strict keeping of many laws as a way of sustaining Jewish identity in the centuries when conquering Greek and Roman armies occupied and ruled their country. This observance created a way to show adherence to Jewish faith. Rules such as those about washing acted as a fence around the Law. By Jesus’ time, some of the laws laid on people in the name of fostering holiness had become burdens.
What is the best rule you learned in your family and still live? What religious practices bring you closer to God? What comes out of our mouths that you forbid yourself and others?