Gospel – Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
—For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. —
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Reflection on the Gospel

Provided by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men: Office for Justice and Peace

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

Last month we remembered the U.S. atom bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 10th in Milwaukee we had a Lanterns for Peace event, releasing paper lanterns into the water to remember the hundreds of thousands of people who died or were seriously wounded by the nuclear blast and radioactivity. Some still alive continue to suffer from that event. What is especially appalling is that some of the pilots who dropped the bombs were said to be Christians. In the Book of James, we are reminded that we must be doers of the Word, the message of Christ to love our enemies and do good to them. We are told to be doers, not just hearers of the Word. We are to show we are Christians by our actions, not to just listen to the Gospel but to practice what is preached. St. Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel, if necessary with words.” Are we preaching the Gospel by loving our enemies and doing good to them? Or are we following the teachings of the world to destroy our enemies, make them suffer, and destroy their means to survive? Do we do good to them by accepting them into our homes and giving them the means to survive or are we rejecting them, leaving them to live in misery until they die?

In today’s Gospel, Mark shows us how Jesus was often ridiculed for not following the Jewish religion traditions. He was not following the ritual of washing hands before eating. He was often lambasted by the Pharisees and Scribes. He was reprimanded for speaking with women, especially Samaritan women, healing on the Sabbath, mingling with sinners and stopping faithful Jews who were following the law by stoning to death women caught in adultery. What was Christ’s response to this? He simply reminded them that the whole law is contained in loving one’s neighbor. He told them to practice what they preach, to love as God loves.

Christ also reminded them of Isaiah’s words, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. In vain they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines. You abandon the commandment of God to hold to human tradition.” Christ told them that what they have in their hearts will show forth in their actions. If you love God and neighbor you will show this in action. You will not do harm to your neighbor. You will help your neighbor. You will not fight and kill your neighbor for any reason, even if you want what your neighbor has.

The state tells us that it is heroic to kill your neighbor in order to “protect your own.” To not do this is to be a traitor. You may be a traitor to the state, but you, as Christians, must be faithful to the Gospel of Christ.

The U.S. has invaded many countries, sometimes more than once, in order to get more resources for itself or to stop another country from taking something we wanted. In the eyes of the world bombing the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a good thing, and those who oppose such an action are unpatriotic. Where were the Christians then? Most sided with the state and turned their backs on Christ and His teachings. Where are the Christians today who are still supporting and funding our invasions of other countries? Are we showing love or are we being quiet? Are we taking in the refugees who fled the armed invasions of their countries or are we obeying the rules of the state by refusing to offer hospitality to the refugees? James writes in his Letter, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God is this: to care for orphans, widows and others in distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Are our hearts full of love of God and neighbor or are they filled with love of the laws of the state? We Christians must be followers of Christ’s command to love all, enemies and friends alike, and not followers of the state, the world. By doing that we will in fact be helping the state and the world. We will be faithful witnesses of the Word.

Don Timmerman
Timmerman is a longtime peace activist and member of the Casa Maria Catholic Worker Community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.