The 5th Tuesday of Ordinary Time
(Genesis ; Ps ; Mark)
A Gospel recounting a confrontation – one among many in the life of Jesus – and a Gospel recounting the wisdom, the teaching of the Master. The Pharisees and scribes, avowed enemies of the Lord, come to attack with a good bit of spiritual pride about their practices. They approach Jesus publicly and the issue is washing hands before meals.
So they question Jesus: “Why do Your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” Notice that Jesus does not make light of this tradition nor does He belittle it; rather, He goes deeper: “You disregard God’s commandments and cling to human tradition” – in other words, the human tradition like hand washing is more your religion than obedience to God. You might say: clean hands white washing disobedient hearts!
“You nullify the word of God” – how those words must have stung their religiosity, their pride – and how their hatred for Him increased!
Our Catholic faith is full of traditions, centuries of traditions and it is a true richness – helps in living our faith in love, in belief, in need – there are prayers for all occasions, novenas for needs, there is the rosary, the stations of the cross – there are our own monastic traditions. But the greatest tradition and the most sacred is following Jesus’ admonition “Do this in memory of Me” – the Most Holy Eucharist we are now celebrating.
For us, for anyone it can happen that these traditions, even the daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist can become one’s religion and God’s word is secondary, at best. One can celebrate Mass and one can participate in it, receive Holy Communion and still remain disobedient. One can have the daily custom of attending Mass – would never miss – yet not live charity, hold grudges, be unforgiving – in that case, Mass has become a self-satisfying act, nothing more than feeling good about oneself.
And Jesus’ words stand fast and still ring out clearly: “You nullify the word of God.” We can make God’s word useless, meaningless. So the question: In my Catholic life, in my Monastic life – do I nullify God’s word?