Today's Scriptural Meditation Readings:
Februrary 10 A.D. 2009
Scripture from today's Liturgy of the Word:
Psalm 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
A reflection on today's Scripture:
We have once again a crowd gathering around Jesus.
In this passage, however, it is not just the ordinary Galilean people who were beseeching Jesus for favours: some of the clerical caste from Jerusalem had come to attack and assail Him. There were Pharisees who were obsessed with the danger of contamination, and scribes who were the experts in all the details, which had grown up around the Mosaic Law.
There were 613 man-made regulations, 365 of them negative and 248 positive so that it was impossible for the ordinary person to know where his obligations began or ended. And so tyrannical power was invested in the experts, the scribes, to lord it over ordinary folk and subject them to their whims and caprices.
This particular controversy about washing the hands might appear trivial to us. But to the scribes and Pharisees it was an issue of maintaining their power base and exercising a stranglehold over the lives of ordinary people. There was a time that Catholics can recall when their lives too were similarly enmeshed in guilt-provoking rules and regulations: people worried about the swallowing of a crumb breaking the Eucharistic fast, or knitting breaking the Sunday observance.
This is what Jesus attacks here: the travesty and suborning of religion that is spawned by legalism. To the question why His disciples fail to observe the tradition of the elders, Jesus applies the words of Isaiah 29:13 to His opponents whom He calls hypocrites. This pronouncement by Him is on what constitutes true religion. Lip-service without the commitment of the heart is worthless: "This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me."
The clash with the Pharisees and scribes reveals how Jesus was incensed at the man-made regulations, which obscured the heart of true religion and God-given commandments: "You put aside the commandments of God and obey the teachings of men." (Mark 7:8) The true law of God is the basis of wisdom and understanding: wisdom in the presentation of divine affairs and understanding in the execution of human affairs.
Jesus was eventually judicially murdered in the name of religion in a plot conspired by religious leaders. Counterfeit religion continues to foment war and divisions and all manner of human atrocity in this present age. Religious self-righteousness perpetuates injustice, ethnic cleansing and political gerrymandering in the allocation of housing allotments and promotional prospects.
Sacred Scripture has been quoted to legitimate apartheid and racial discrimination, and the dark side of Church history tells the brutal story of inquisitions, burning of heretics, and the imprisoning of people with morbid guilt due to the application of warped versions of religion that stunted human growth and development.
"In this way you make God's law null and void for the sake of your traditions which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this." (Mark 7:13)
In our own time the very people who should be its promoters and guardians are emptying God's word of its spirit and power.
"Lord, make me know your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me, for you are God my saviour." (Psalm 25:4-5)
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Saint Scholastica, virgin
Lives of the saints:
Full Scripture text from today's Liturgy of the Word:
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