Week 5 of Ordinary Time, Tuesday – 11th February — Gospel: Mark 7,1-13
Prepare the hearts not externals
Jesus speaks with Pharisees and scribes who raise the question of defilement. They notice that some of Jesus’ disciples were eating without washing their hands. The text continues within parenthesis, that the Pharisees, “and all the Jews”, follow “the tradition of elders”. The mere fact that only “some” of the disciples did not wash before eating tells that the claim that “all the Jews” follow the same tradition is a narrative exaggeration. Here again there is reference to the market place (7,4), which focuses our attention on the kingdom. By linking Jesus’ exchange with the Pharisees and scribes to the marketplace, Mark is asserting that the order of God’s kingdom ranks all other orders, and is shifting the focus from questions of ritual purity to preparation for that kingdom. Jesus is not rejecting the law; in fact, he is rebuking them for their failure to uphold it. Jesus is saying, whatever your practice, whichever traditions you do or don’t uphold, these are not the things that, by themselves, get you ready for God’s kingdom. The issue is the state of the human heart, which he highlights with Isaian quote: the hearts of “this people” are far from God and his commands. Jesus requests that we prepare our hearts, and thereby ourselves, for the kingdom of God.