Mk 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.
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UNDERSTAND | By Father Greg Friedman, OFM
Many years ago I took part in a group dynamics exercise. We were told to stand in a circle, join hands, and prevent Joe, outside the group, from breaking into the circle. We did that task well. So well that when Mary, also outside the circle, tried to break in, we kept her out too. The group leader processed the experience for us, reminding us that he’d told us only to keep Joe out. The leader explained that human beings sometimes get so caught up in the details of a system of behavior that they forget its original purpose.
The same thing often can be said for religion. The laws and structures of our religious life, as noted in today’s first reading, are an important way we relate to God. But as Jesus points out in the Gospel, when human beings go beyond the original purpose, and burden others with practices the law never intended, then the connection with God is severed. Lip service to external structures and laws can replace a commitment of the heart.
There is a place for law and for structure within our lives as Christians. But we must always keep the purpose in mind. If we center on the person of Jesus Christ, and his law of love, we should have no trouble doing just that.
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DISCUSS | By Father Dan Kroger, OFM
In the first reading (Dt 4:1-2, 6-8), what does God demand of the Israelites?
God asked the Israelites, “What nation is there that has gods as close as our God is to us?”
How would you answer that question if God asked you the same thing?
What is God trying to tell us?
What does the second reading (Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27), tell us about the origin of whatever gifts or talents we have received?
James tells us to be doers of the word of truth, not like whom?
What is religion according to this letter of James?
According to the Gospel (Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23), who are the Pharisees? What do they want?
What did Jesus call the scribes and the Pharisees?
What is a hypocrite? Do you want to be a hypocrite?
The second reading encourages us to care for others. Seek out some ways that you can do just that through volunteering somewhere. Or you could do something closer to home by going through your clothes and finding some to donate to local shelters.
In the spirit of this week’s Gospel, make an effort to be open to things outside your comfort zone. For instance, you can do something as easy as trying a new food or you might try something a little more difficult, like taking the time to learn about another religion.