“You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

The Pharisees and scribes once again come to Jesus to give Him grief (Mk 7:1-13).  This time they notice that some of Jesus’ disciples don’t purify their hands before meals as they felt their long tradition demanded.  Jesus calls the religious leaders hypocrites, even quoting Isaiah (29:13) to reinforce this accusation.  Then Jesus gives an instance (although He tells them there are many such examples) of how the Jews disregard God’s commandments in favor of their human tradition.  This episode is maybe the primary one used against Catholics when discussing the idea of Tradition in the Church.  There is no need to get in a discourse about that here; let us simply leave it that tradition is not necessarily bad and that Sacred Tradition is part of the deposit of faith (i.e., divine revelation).  The key takeaway from this gospel passage is that nothing we do, in and of itself, gets us to heaven.  It is God who makes possible salvation.  And He is not a slot machine.  There is no magic formula that, if we do it just so, God has to “let us in” when we finally meet Him.  To think that we can behave in any sort of manner contrary to God’s commandments but, just by doing some particular act (even an objectively good one), we will be saved, is dead wrong and may have eternal consequences.  Go to Mass on Sunday and live like hell on Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday and…)?  No.  Live in mortal sin but faithfully say your rosary?  No.  Read the prayer card as prescribed which tells you that by doing so you will not be damned, but forget your Christian values for the rest of the day?  No.  We are obligated to go to Sunday Mass.  Do not miss!  Saying the rosary is a wonderful practice.  Don’t stop!  Reciting particularly helpful and moving prayers from a card or book can provide inspiration and comfort at all times of day.  Continue this practice!  But what all of these should do is lead us to reform.  The sacraments are the normal means by which God makes His grace available to us; as we remove sin and vice from our lives we become more open and receptive to grace.  Contemplating the mysteries of Christ through the rosary should lead us to appreciate Him and His mother more and inspire us (and give us the strength) to imitate Him more closely.  Thoughtful written prayers can provide reminders at different times of day to adore, thank, petition, or ask forgiveness of God.  These can also strengthen and console us.  When it comes to things of God we do not go through the motions.  And we certainly don’t presume our salvation because of rituals followed (we leave the judging up to God).  May we never have Christ accuse us of being hypocrites.  Rather, may or beliefs, words, and actions always be in harmony in the key of God.

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