The Tradition of the Elders
Fr. Mark Link SJ, in his homily book Illustrated Daily Homilies Weekdays, quoted William Barclay who tells the story of a Jewish rabbi who was in a Roman prison. The rabbi used his small daily ration of water not for drinking, but for the religious ritual of handwashing before eating. Because of his determination to obey the rules of ritual cleanliness, he nearly died of thirst.
This story helps us to know more why the Pharisees are surprised when they see the disciples of Jesus eating food with hands that have not been ritually cleaned.
This Pharisees’ strict observance of the law is a weakness for some of them. Their concern for external regulations, according to Fr. Mark Link, sometimes overshadows their concern for internal attitudes. Rituals become more important for some than things of the heart, like love and pity. These religious leaders impose these regulations as ways to make people please God. To neglect the tradition of the elders is to offend God. To fail to do this is, in the eyes of the Jewish people, not to be guilty of bad manners, not to be dirty in the health sense, but to be unclean in the sight of God. For these people, to eat with unclean hands is subject to the attacks of the demon and to become liable to poverty and destruction.
Yes when I was still a kid, my parents taught me to wash my hands before sitting at the dining table even if we use tablespoons and forks. More so, before we eat we pray the grace before meals because, according to my father that, when we eat we are before the grace of God.
The writer also of the homily for Tuesday of the 5th Week of the Year (published in the 365 Days with Lord 2011) shared also his own experience with his father. That, for his father, the food is a blessing from God. They should take it with respect and gratitude. They should not fight before the grace of God. They should leave every ill will and all concerns behind when they come to table. They should share and be sensitive to the needs of one another at table. They should leave something for anybody who will be late for the meal. They are not to leave anything on their plates, for there are others who do not have anything to eat. Therefore, we have to share food with our neighbors who have none. In short, what this priest is telling us and Jesus for that matter is that, we are asked, not only to wash our hands when we eat but also to clean our hearts.
In the same way, we know that the place where God most wants to dwell, where He most wants to be honored, is in the hearts of His people. The Pondering the Word the Anawim Way (February 7, 2012 Cycle B Year 2) says that it is in the hearts where God meets us in the true covenant of love. The psalmist expresses a great longing to dwell in the house of God. We can see this as expressing our longing for the Lord to make of our hearts His true home. We yearn for Him to come and dwell within us. Let us strive to make our heart a true inner temple of God; a heart full of humility, love and mercy. Not only this kind of heart, God also dwells in us because we have the Holy Eucharist which we can receive and take into our very own bodies! We have the Spirit of Jesus Christ living in us.
To what extent do we honor God externally, and yet keep Him at a distance in our hearts? Let us pray: “Lord, let our external acts of worship be a true reflection of our hearts?
OPTION 01, 02, 03,