Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Mark 7, 1-13

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round him,

and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them.

For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, keep the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow;

and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them to keep, concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes.

So the Pharisees and scribes asked him, 'Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?'

He answered, 'How rightly Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites in the passage of scripture: This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.

Their reverence of me is worthless; the lessons they teach are nothing but human commandments.

You put aside the commandment of God to observe human traditions.'

And he said to them, 'How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition!

For Moses said: Honour your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death.

But you say, "If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Korban (that is, dedicated to God),"

then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother.

In this way you make God's word ineffective for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The long Gospel passage reports a discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees about some prescriptions regarding purification. Jesus’ disciples felt "free" from these ritual norms that interestingly, were not drawn from the Scriptures but rather, were added by the "tradition of the elders." The disposition to wash hands in order that they not be defiled was initially limited to the priests. Not only did it have a hygienic value but also a meaning of legal purity. A rabbinic disposition extended it to the entire people. Jesus’ answer moves the issue. The Lord quotes Isaiah: "This people honours me with their lips, in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines." Jesus goes to the heart of the problem: the pharisaic legalism prescribes so many rules that in the end it annuls the essence of God’s commandments. This is the case of the korban. The Decalogue obliges children to support their parents when necessary. But according to a rabbinic tradition by pronouncing an oath over one’s possessions (korban in Aramaic mean "scared offer") they became consecrated to God and thus unfit to be used to help parents. It was a cunning way to circumvent the commandment that obliges children to "honour" the father and mother. How much this should make us reflect over the many children who abandon their parents to a cruel and harsh destiny! Then Jesus adds: "And you do many things like this." Jesus wants to call the Pharisees and his listeners to the centrality of God’s law that is love. Every human tradition that prevents love of God and love for our neighbour is a betrayal of the Law. It is a great lesson that has its value still today, even for Christians. Often indeed there are people who are satisfied with observing some rituals, even religious ones but they do not follow the principles that emanate from the Gospel and from the law of love. The Lord cares about the hearts of men and women and not about rituals. Rituals will pass, only love will remain.