Today’s Thoughts: Pope Francis during one of his Sunday Angelus reflections a few years ago spoke about our Gospel today. At that time and today I find his words to be refreshing and challenging. In today’s Gospel Jesus does not look at what the person does on the outside. It is what is in a person’s heart that is the true test of faith. Pope Francis says pretty much the same thing.
Pope Francis in his Angelus talk strongly criticized Catholics who brag that they are perfect followers of the church's teachings but then criticize or speak ill of others in their faith communities, saying they cause scandal and even offer a "counter-witness" to Jesus.
In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus is questioned by Pharisees about why his disciples did not follow Jewish law regarding the cleansing of hands before eating. Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites, quoting the prophet Isaiah and saying they honor God with their lips but not their hearts.
Jesus' response to the Pharisees, the Pope said, "has the force of a prophetic pronouncement." They are words that might fill us with admiration for our teacher, for Jesus. "We feel that in him there is the truth and that his wisdom liberates us from prejudices."
But then Pope went on to sharply warned that Jesus words apply also to us today. “Caution! With these words, Jesus also wants to put us, today, on guard against considering that the exterior observance of the law may be sufficient to be good Christians."
"As it was for the Pharisees, there also exists for us the danger of considering our place as better than others for the only fact of observing the rules or customs, even if we do not love our neighbor, [even if] we are hard of heart or prideful."
In other words, the observance of the rules is something antiseptic if it does not change our hearts and is not translated into concrete attitudes. Opening yourself up to an encounter with God and God's word in prayer, searching for justice and peace, giving help to the poor, the weak and the oppressed. These are the actions that give purpose and meaning to our observances of the law.
Exterior attitudes are determined by what's in our hearts. May our hearts always be about the presence of God!
Have a great Sunday everyone!
Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. "Preacher on the Run"
Just a few thoughts to help you on your journey through life...let me know from time to time what you think...