“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

The gospel passage from Mark (7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23) has Pharisees and scribes questioning Jesus about the lack of ritual purification practices done by His disciples.  Mark explains in some detail a number of such observances by the Jewish religious leaders before describing the encounter.  Jesus’ response to their question is to call them hypocrites and quote Isaiah (29:13) (a portion of which is in the headline) going on to critique human precepts that are held over against God’s law.  He goes on to tell the entire crowd that it is what comes from within that defiles (He enumerates many sins and vices), not anything that comes from without.  Jesus describes as hypocrites those who give Him lip service without deeply holding and living God’s commandments.  Putting on a show by following certain external practices and rituals, even good ones and required ones, is not what the Lord wants.  Honoring God properly requires not just a formulaic saying of words or performing of gestures.  What is required is a deep seated and penetrating belief in and love of God that manifests itself in right thinking and right acting.  We are to love God above all things.  We are to pray for an increase in faith, hope, and love.  We are to treat others as we wish to be treated.  We are to often consider our sins and thus quickly seek reconciliation with God and others through confession and penance.  We never want to be far from the Lord in whom are hearts find their true home.

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