Following Jesus II

Continuing today in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 7, the leaders – the Pharisees and Scribes – questioned Jesus about the practice of his disciples.  His disciples were eating their meals without ritually washing their hands.  I guess the leaders shouldn’t have mentioned this to Jesus, because did they ever get an earful in reply!

Jesus, who was very familiar with them, laid into them about following their human traditions while disregarding God’s commandments.  Quoting the prophet Isaiah, he told them they were hypocrites, honoring him with their lips but not their hearts.  He went on to quote Isaiah, “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”

There is a lot in these first 13 verses of chapter 7, but I would like to propose that we today still have to be careful about upholding our human traditions and placing them above God’s commandments.

To remind me to be careful about this, I put a reminder in my phone so that every day I have this verse from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 8, Verse 33 pop up:  “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

I have found this so helpful when I lean towards criticism or being judgmental about the path someone else might be following, reminding myself that God can reach through stubborn and hardened hearts to draw others to him with incredibly squiggly lines!

I also think we need this reminder in our own religious traditions as well.  I know I keep beating the drum about this, but I think one of the greatest obstacles to someone coming to faith are those already in the faith.

How often do young mothers get criticized because they are not bringing their small children to adoration?

How often are people judged because they don’t practice their faith exactly the same way someone else has determined they must in order to be called Catholic (or, name the religion.)

Don’t pray the rosary every day?  Don’t attend popular retreats?  Don’t embrace St. Faustina or the Latin Mass?

You name it.  There are hundreds of ways that we criticize each other because we do not do things the same way.

Jesus did not like the Pharisees and the Scribes binding people up.  We hear it again in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 23, where he says, to the crowds and his disciples, “They tie up heavy burdens [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.”

In today’s reading in Mark, the text uses the word *qorban.  He is saying that they have carried this tradition so far as to indicate that if someone were to give money to the temple, then that would negate the need for them to otherwise support their parents, thus twisting the understanding of God’s commandment to honor one’s mother and father (click on the word qorban above for more on this.)

Have you gotten yourself tied up in this idea to the extent that you have judged the practice of someone else because it doesn’t look like yours?

Have you forgotten that God calls everyone to himself and each of us has a unique path to him?

If so, shake yourself free of this rigid traditionalism and get back to following Jesus.  His way is so much bigger than any human tradition we might create.

Janet Cassidy


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