10 Minute Daily Retreat - Read the Daily Gospel with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani (No.154)
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round him, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, keep the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves.
There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them to keep, concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes.
So the Pharisees and scribes asked him, 'Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?'
He answered, 'How rightly Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites in the passage of scripture: This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. Their reverence of me is worthless; the lessons they teach are nothing but human commandments. You put aside the commandment of God to observe human traditions.'
He called the people to him again and said, 'Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean; it is the things that come out of someone that make that person unclean.
For it is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.'
Call it obsessive, or just germ savvy, but hand hygiene is definitely 'in.' Pump packs of alcohol are strategically placed in public spaces. Compulsory e-learning on hand hygiene is required of staff in many work sites. Posters describe steps to make hands germ-free. In today's Gospel, I have to admit to siding with the Pharisees. Until I came to Jesus' response.
Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean; it is the things that come out of someone that make that person unclean.
Jesus told the Pharisees off for superficial external rituals while ignoring the evil thoughts that lead to murder, robbery, abuse.
We can brush off the reading as irrelevant. After all, we are not murderers or thieves or perpetrate abuse. But those crimes are the culmination of selfish thought and disrespect to others. How clean do our hands feel, and smell, after performing hand hygiene?
How much more important it is to keep the inside of our minds and hearts clean, respectful and caring.
5 minutes: READ the text slowly.
REFLECT on a phrase or word that struck you.
SPEAK to God about your thoughts.
5 minutes: LISTEN to God speak to you.
RESPOND with a prayer that feels right for you.