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Are You A Sweet-'tator?

This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Sermon Topic Potential

Sermon Week Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B

Scripture Summary Mark 7:6


A well-known preacher once brought a small basket of potatoes into the pulpit. One-by-one, he gave each potato a name as he removed it from the basket. Then he used the name to illustrate a certain character trait. For example, he named one potato an "imi-tator," another a "dic-tator," and another an "agi-tator." When he had finished naming the potatoes in this manner, he said to the people, "Now I want all of you to be 'sweet-'tators.'" Later, as the congregation filed out of the Church, one parishioner shook the preacher's hand and said, "I know you want me to be a sweet-'tator, but I yam what I yam."

How true! We are what we are! And what we are does not necessarily coincide with what others think we are or what others would like us to be. Even if we come across to others as a sweet-'tator, "It Ain't Necessarily So," as that famous song title suggests. The way we may be structuring our lives to the contrary notwithstanding, it's not what's up front that counts but what's deep down inside, as Jesus makes clear to us in today's Gospel Lesson.

In our Gospel episode, some of the Pharisees complain to Jesus that His disciples eat without first complying with the ancient religious custom of scrupulously washing the hands. They ask Jesus, "Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of our ancestors, but instead take food without purifying their hands?" Jesus replies,

How accurately Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites when he wrote,

This people pays Me lip service
But their heart is far from Me.
Empty is the reverence they do Me
because they teach as dogmas mere human precepts
(Mk. 7:6-7).

"Their heart is far from Me!"

To understand what Jesus is getting at here, we must recognize that this and other dietary customs of the time were not mere social amenities (like putting your napkin on your lap when you sit down in a restaurant). Rather, these were religious traditions that were intended to symbolize inner-piety -- outward signs of inner-devotion to God's Will. But the [...]

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