True Religion is to Love and Serve
In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes true religion as serving God and all His children with a pure and holy heart. The Gospel explains the encounter of Jesus with the Sanhedrin observers and the Pharisees who had been sent to assess his unique, controversial teachings. These experts had found Jesus’ teachings an open violation of the “Traditions of the Elders”, and his implied and spoken claims “blasphemous”. They also noticed that Jesus’ disciples omitted the required ritual washing before meals. It was in the fifth century BC that the scribes started adding oral traditions as interpretations and practical applications of the Mosaic Law. The Pharisees observed them and insisted that all the Jews should do so. The original noble purpose was to sanctify the daily lives of the people, making them “holy as God is holy” and different in lifestyle from their pagan neighbours. Jesus uses the occasion as a teachable moment to give them the following lessons: 1) Don’t teach human doctrines as dogmas of Faith. 2) Sincerity of heart, internal disposition, purity and holiness are more important than mere external ritual observances. 3) Keep your heart holy as it is the source of sins, vices and evil habits. The observance of traditions and of washing rituals does not correct the internal motivations and inclinations that really defile people. 4) External piety without internal holiness is hypocrisy.
Let us lean to learn and keep the spirit of the Church’s laws and ritual practices. For example, our Sunday obligation is intended to allow us to worship God in the parish community, to offer our lives to God, to ask His pardon for sins, to thank God for His blessings and to receive Divine life and strength from Him in Holy Communion. Our daily family prayers are meant to thank God for his blessings, to present the family’s needs before God, to ask pardon for sins, to maintain the spirit of unity and love in the family and to keep close relationship with God.
Let us avoid the tendency to become cafeteria Christians that is, to choose certain Commandments and Church laws to follow, and to ignore the others as we choose certain food items and ignore others in a cafeteria.