Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mark 7:6-13: Purification as Transformation of the Heart

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Jesus rebukes the Pharisees’ false focus on “the letter of the Law” and their own invented traditions. In quoting from the prophet Isaiah (29:13), Jesus points to a universal truth, one as applicable to the Pharisees of first-century Palestine as to the church today.  We must focus less on our comfortable traditions and rituals and more on garnering our hearts toward the love of God and neighbor. The Pharisees’ focus on ritual cleanliness detracts from true cleanliness, allowing the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and transform our hearts. When we worship in faithful community, read and reflect upon Scripture, pray, offer loving charity to those in need, and receive the sacraments, it is not due to our work or adherence to tradition.  These acts of faith are freely given to us through God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working in our hearts.  
As a closing thought, in The Gospel of Mark, Mary Healy writes the following meditation on this passage:
Jesus is speaking about an attitude toward God that he saw in the scribes and Pharisees and that can be found among Christians in every church: the tendency to substitute religiosity for genuine obedience to God and his word. What is needed is a personal encounter with Jesus leading to a deep transformation of heart. When that occurs, religious practices come to life and serve their true purpose. (137)