“In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:7-8)
In every society, there are unquestionable traditions; practices people do because “that is just how we do it here.” Traditions serve as identifying marks of a particular society or people. Very often, given the number of years these traditions have lasted, they gain so much respect by the people and are followed religiously.
Recently, I read a story of how a slab was made in an Army barracks but before it was dry, some goats messed it up. The same thing happened when the work was redone so the Commander ordered some soldiers to stand guard by the slab till it became dry. However, the commander was suddenly transferred and when the new commander came, he simply followed suit. Surprisingly, to this day, this tradition has continued.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus and his disciples were given a cold look because they went against the tradition; they did something completely forbidden – they ate without first washing according to the rites of Jewish purification.
I can only imagine that many years after this coronavirus saga, many would still be arrested and molested (treated as grave sinners) for not wearing facemasks in public. It is so easy for humans to begin a tradition but once its original purpose has been served or if it takes too long, it can become extremely difficult or impossible to stop it.
Humans are social creatures. Majority of our behaviour is not only learned but seriously conditioned by the society in which we live. In other words, we prefer to act in ways that are considered acceptable and praiseworthy by the majority of people in our society. Anyone who dares to go against the norm makes himself/herself an enemy of the society and is most likely to be killed.
Jesus knew the risks involved in breaking the protocol but He was willing to travel the “narrow path” just to teach us the truth (the truth sets us free) – that it is not a sin to eat without washing one’s hands. God does not take offence by our failure to wash our hands rather He takes offence by our failure to wash our hearts from impure thoughts. Later on, Jesus would say: “It is not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:11).
Our first reading today from the book Genesis shows us that humans are the apex of God’s creative work, the last of all and best of all. It is only after creating man and woman that God said; “it is very good.” It was only after creating man and woman that God felt so satisfied that He declared it was time to rest. To all other created things, God simply gave instructions but to the man/woman He had made, God uttered blessings.
We humans are the best of all of God’s creative work. We are the apple of God’s eye. We are loved above all of God’s creation and He takes the greatest pride in us. Not only did God make us as a replica of Himself, He also gave us a mind of our own. That is, God gave us the freedom to choose whether or not to love Him. God did not create us as His slaves or as His robots. This is why God cares so much for us, why He chose to die for our sake. Aren’t just lucky to be human being?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you made me in your image and likeness, help me to live my life as your true image and likeness. Amen.
Bible Study: Genesis 1:20-2:4, Psalm 8, and Mark 7:1-13).