The tradition of the elders

Gospel Reading: Mk 7:1-13
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. 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 honor 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 went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.

Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban” (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”

The Gospel speaks of two things. The first is the tradition of the elders, which for the Pharisees and the scribes is not observed by Jesus’ disciples. The second is the commandment of God, which the Pharisees and the scribes put aside in favor of the tradition of the elders.

Jesus quotes Isaiah to underline their hypocrisy: they honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from God. They teach human precepts as doctrines. An example given by Jesus is their declaration as an offering to God of what should be for the support of their parents.

External observance of the law should proceed from a pure and chaste heart.

Some find it easier to criticize than to be correct.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website:

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