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 Gospel passage opens the discussion about what is clean and what is unclean. It is a decisive issue for Jesus’ teaching. He calls the crowd around him and shows them the true religious dimension of life. And now he responds directly to the question of the Pharisees about why the disciples were eating with “defiled hands”, i.e. without having washed them. My disciples - Jesus answers - “there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” The impurity is caused by acts, words, or situations that carry man away from God who is the “pure,” the “holy.” Because of their illness, the lepers were considered unclean and therefore they could not enter the temple. In the book of Leviticus there are a number of indications that define and delimit the sphere of the pure and the impure, that one must follow if one wanted to live in covenant with God (see chapters 11-15). Impurity causes the human to be a sinner. This is why the demons in the Gospels are also called “unclean spirits,” because they express the greatest distance from God. The primary source of impurity - that is, of all that leads away from God - however is from the heart, not so much from actions. From the heart come evil thoughts, impure intentions and bad decisions. It is the heart we need to care for. It is in the heart that are rooted our traditions and habits, which often replace the word of God. It is not enough to obey the law, if we do not cultivate the heart through prayer, reading the Word of God, and participating in the life of the Church. Jesus warns us about an outward observance of the law, which could even lead to nullify the Word of God. One can in fact “honour God with the lips,” while the hearts are far from him. What matters is the commandment of God. Jesus uses the singular, perhaps referring to the one and only commandment of the love of God and the neighbour. How many times we confuse our traditions and habits with the commandment of God, preventing Him to work in our lives and repent.