SUNDAY’S GOSPEL – Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.  (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.)  So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”  He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’  You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”

    Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand:  there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

POINTERS FOR PRAYER

  1. Certain sections of the Jewish people put great store on the importance of rules and conventions as a measure of the goodness of a person. Jesus challenges this view. How have you found that getting appearances right did not necessarily make you a good person?
  2. Even fidelity in religious practice is not enough. “This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me”. How have you experienced the importance of carrying your faith beyond attendance on Sundays? When have you seen that in others? What brought this home to you?
  3. What Jesus seeks are followers whose faith is whole-hearted and warm, people whose religion is not primarily in dutiful observance but in their enthusiasm for life and their care for one another. It is good to be with them. Think of the contrast between a dinner party at which everything is just right but very formal, and another party which is rather haphazard and casual but full of great warmth.
  4. “It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.” It is also from within that good intentions come. We do have choices. When have you been faced with the choice between good and evil? When did you realise the importance of accepting responsibility for your own life and choices? How has this helped your growth as a person?