Reflection on Scripture Twenty-Second Sunday Gospel B Sin comes from within

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Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary: Gospel Reflections B

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. 
· The fact that they came from Jerusalem meant that they were an official delegation sent to observe this new Rabbi and his disciples to see if they were strictly following the Law. They were checking his orthodoxy.
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 observant Jews were keen on ritual purity, that is, to do nothing that would make one unworthy to enter into the temple or to offer sacrifice. There were many laws regulating ritual purity. The Pharisees pride themselves on their strict observances of all these laws. They expected, and seemingly demanded others to do the same.

So 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?” 
· This tradition was at the heart of their understanding of righteousness, based on works. This offended their sense of righteousness before God.
· Here we have another point of contention between the Pharisees and Jesus over his disciples’ behavior.
· The issue is Jesus’ interpretation of the Law and their interpretation and between the commandments of the Law and human traditions of their elders.
· This was another attempt to discredit Jesus before the people who flocked to him.
· They were not so much concerned about hygiene but ritual impurity.

He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors 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.” 
· Jesus was aware that they had come to undermine his ministry.
· What is the distinction Jesus makes in his response? Jesus knows that there is nothing in the commandments demanding this ritual of washing but was added later by human tradition.
· What upsets Jesus is that these leaders were laying more emphasis on their own ritual requirements than on what was far more important, such as obedience to God’s word.
· In quoting Isaiah Jesus indicates the degree of their hypocrisy. They placed more emphasis on human interpretation than on the actual word of God.
· The question Jesus raises is this: Is the interpretation of the Law, made by the teachers down through the centuries, which at times reinterpret the Word of God even to the point of altering it somewhat, equal to the Law itself?

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.  Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” 
· When we reflect on this passage do we see an application in our lives?
· Do we sometimes focus on the external trappings rather than the interior transformation that God desires?
            How conscious are we of the roots of sin within us? What are we doing about them?

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