ON HIS RETURN TO GALILEE, Scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus why His disciples did not wash their hands before eating, as their laws prescribed. He answered:
“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; but in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines precepts of men.’ For letting go the commandment of God, you hold fast the tradition of men, the washing of pots and of cups; and many other things you do like to these. Well do you nullify the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’; and ‘Let him who curses father or mother be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Let a man say to his father or his mother, “Any support thou mightest have had from me is Corban”, (that is, given to God). And you do not allow him to do anything further for his father or mother. You make void the commandment of God by your tradition, which you have handed down; and many suchlike things you do.”
Calling the crowds to Him, He said:
“Hear and understand: What goes into the mouth does not defile a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, that defiles a man.”
Told He had offended the Pharisees, Jesus said:
“Every plant that My heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; blind guides they are of blind men. But if a blind man guide a blind man, both fall into a pit.”
Peter asked Him to explain this further, and He said:
“Are you also even yet without understanding? Do you not realize that whatever enters the mouth passes into the belly and is cast out into the drain? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and it is they that defile a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, immorality, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
Meditation: Like the religion of Israel, Catholicism has many external forms (e.g., genuflections, bows, attendance at Mass, reception of the sacraments). And Catholics could, like the Jews whom Christ rebuked, see in the external observance of these rites the whole of their service of God. But God wants not only the service of our lips, but the service of our hearts. Is my attendance at Mass a complete giving of myself, heart and soul, to God? Or is it merely attendance at a ceremony?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 101-102. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.