REFLECTION FOR TODAY
February 9, 2021
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
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. Mark 7:6–8
It seems quite clear that Jesus’ instant fame led these religious leaders to jealousy and envy, and they wanted to find fault with Him. As a result, they carefully observed Jesus and His disciples, and they noticed that Jesus’ disciples were not following the traditions of the elders. So the leaders began questioning Jesus about this fact. Jesus’ response was one of severe criticism of them. He quoted Isaiah the prophet who said, “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.”
Jesus’ frustration with the scribes and Pharisees is apparent in today’s Gospel. He calls them hypocrites, for they have replaced the love of God with their own traditions consisting of legalistic interpretations of the law, and external piety. In doing so, they have erected their own stumbling blocks to being united with the heart of God. What Jesus yearns for more than anything are hearts that receive and return God’s love.
Jesus strongly criticized them because their hearts were lacking true worship. The various traditions of the elders were not necessarily bad, such as the careful ceremonial washing of one’s hands before eating. But these traditions were empty if they were not motivated by a deep faith and love of God. The external following of human traditions was not truly an act of divine worship, and that’s what Jesus wanted for them. He wanted their hearts to be set ablaze with a love of God and with true divine worship.
What our Lord wants of each one of us is worship. Pure, heartfelt, sincere worship. He wants us to love God with a deep interior devotion. He wants us to pray, to listen to Him, and to serve His holy will with all the powers of our soul. And this is only possible when we engage in authentic worship.
As Catholics, our life of prayer and worship is grounded in the holy Liturgy. The Liturgy incorporates many traditions and practices that reflect our faith and become a vehicle of the grace of God. And though the Liturgy itself is far different from the mere “tradition of the elders” that Jesus was criticizing, it’s useful to remind ourselves that the many Liturgies of our Church must move from the external actions to interior worship. Going through the motions alone is pointless. We must allow God to act on us and within us as we engage in the external celebration of the Sacraments.
Reflect, today, upon the burning desire in the heart of our Lord to draw you into worship. Reflect upon how well you allow yourself to be drawn into this worship every time you attend the holy Mass. Seek to make your participation not only an exterior one but, first and foremost, an interior one. Doing so will help ensure that the rebuke of our Lord upon the scribes and Pharisees does not also fall upon you.
My divine Lord, You and You alone are worthy of all worship, adoration and praise. You and You alone deserve the worship I offer You from the depths of my heart. Help me and Your entire Church to always interiorize our exterior acts of worship so as to give You the glory that is due Your holy name. Jesus, I trust in You.