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Walk The Talk

This people honours Me only with lip service, while their hearts are far from Me
Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8; Psalm 15:2-5; James 1:17-18,21-22,27; Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

Sermon Week Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B

Scripture Summary Mark 7:6

A puffed up, self-righteous man who liked to appear full of virtue once said to Mark Twain, “Before I die, I’m going to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There, I shall climb to the very top of Mount Sinai and boldly recite the Ten Commandments!” Twain replied, “I have a better idea. Why don’t you stay right here at home and obey them?”

In today's Gospel Lesson, Jesus addresses the problem of hypocrisy in a confrontation with the Pharisees. It all begins when they notice that Jesus' disciples eat without first following the ancient custom of scrupulously washing their hands. The Pharisees ask Jesus, "Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders, but eat their food with unclean hands?" And Jesus answers, "It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of Scripture,

This people honours Me only with lip service,
While their hearts are far from Me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations" (Mk. 7:6-7).

To understand what Jesus is getting at here, we must recognize that this "purification" ritual was not merely a social construct. It was part of a religious tradition. It was intended as a symbol of piety, an outward sign of inner-devotion to God's Will. Consequently, when Jesus recalls the words of the ancient prophet, "This people pays Me lip service but their hearts are far from Me," He is calling the Pharisees' value system into question. He is saying, in effect, "You have allowed rituals to take over. You have assigned too high a value to custom. You have embraced this and the hundreds of other religious rituals you practice as ends rather than means. And, for this reason, I say to you, "Your hearts are far from God." That is to say, "You are allowing your own pre-conceived notions about God to obscure your vision of who the one true God really is."

A man who lived in one of the poorest sections of town was known for his perfect church attendance. Each morning on his way [...]


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