August 30, 2015 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
The traditions that the Pharisees and scribes kept regarding handwashing and the purification of household items were meant to keep them ritually pure.
In other words, these practices were supposed to lead to a purity of heart. These external things were meant to lead to interior purity.
But all these purification rituals and traditions did not do what they were supposed to do. They were ends in and of themselves. And so, over time, they became utterly useless.
In the gospel Jesus takes issue with these practices. Jesus knows that these practices are imposed upon the people by the religious leaders with legalism and hypocrisy.
Jesus makes it clear that these external rituals were not changing interior hearts. These practices weren’t making people better.
The Law of God and our religious traditions are not supposed to ensnare us. They are supposed to lead us to holiness.
And genuine holiness is transformative. When we follow the Law of God and our religious practices, they are supposed to help us all become better versions of ourselves. They are supposed to change our hearts and so change our lives.
To put it bluntly, our religious traditions, our saying of prayers like the rosary, and even our worship is utterly and completely worthless if it doesn’t change our hearts.
Our religious practices and our sacred worship speak to our hearts and help us turn from those things that defile us.
Jesus reminds us that the things that defile us come from within: greed, lust, envy, jealousy, deceit, anger and hatred, and a lack of forgiveness.
The Good News we proclaim here in this place calls us to be transformed. The Good News we proclaim here in this place calls us to change our ways. The Good News we proclaim here in this places calls us to have a deep intimate personal relationship with God.
The Pharisees and scribes were doing things for the sake of doing them. They were rule keeping. Jesus says this is not life giving.
All that we do here is not done for its own sake. It’s done to help us all become better versions of ourselves. What we do here is done to help us grow in holiness.
Our religious traditions and practices must change our hearts. This is the only way we will be made clean.