Today’s Gospel Jesus finds himself in trouble once again. This is nothing new. Jesus is always finding ways of getting into trouble with the religious establishment. The same can be said about any leader worth his or her salt. Good leaders are people who somehow, someway find themselves getting into trouble with the establishment, whatever establishment that may be. They are not satisfied with the status quo because by going along with the status quo there is no opportunity to grow and develop as people, an organization or even as a church. Now whether we like the change they bring, well, that is a different question all together. Inherently we applaud this behavior from Jesus. We relish and get behind Jesus whenever he comes up against the Pharisees or elders of the church. It means that something is going to change. Jesus is showing them and the world a different way of being. You can imagine the fall out and how hard this can be because the elders of the church and religious establishment are resistive to change. They like the way things are done and see no reason why anything should be different.
We need to appreciate just how frustrated the Pharisees are with Jesus in today’s Gospel. His disciples, according to them, are eating with defied hands. This is a big deal. The Temple and religious elders are very concerned about the cleanliness. Cleanliness is wrapped up with temple law, the tradition of the elders and how the faithful are to approach God. When the Bible dedicates three verses to talk about what needs to be cleaned and how it should be done, you know it is a big deal!
So the Pharisees are frustrated and angry. This is a violation and an insult. How dare Jesus allow the disciples to insult the elders in such a manner! Jesus, as we love to see him do, cuts through all that and strikes at the real issue. For Jesus, what is important is not simply following along with what has always been done or what the religious establishment says needs to happen. For Jesus what is important is what is in people’s hearts. What is their real intention? Jesus channels his inner Isaiah, so you know he is on to something, and says, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrine” (Mark 7: 6-7).
For Jesus it is not about doing what the law or the tradition says we must do. For Jesus it is about doing what the right thing to do is. This is about doing what the commandment of God says we must do, not what the establishment says we must do. As with last week, we are faced again with another uncomfortable truth. Because deep down we know, it is easy to fall back on what our policies and laws say, rather than doing the right thing.
Oh how many times have we been in situations where we know what the right thing to do is, but we shy away from that because it is easier not to ruffle feathers or cause any unnecessary fuss. So we carry on day in and day out doing the same old thing we have always been doing.
Today’s gospel implores us as people and a church to challenge the status quo. We are challenged to reflect deeply on what we truly value as a people and church. We are to examine the intentions of our heart. This is hard, because often we may not always like what we see there. But this is important work to do.
It is important for us to reflect deeply on who we are as a church, because as a church we are the ones who go back into our daily lives to live out our faith in the best way we can. How we do this is by talking about ourselves as a church. This is our opportunity to talk about what really matters to us and how we want to live out our faith in the best way we can.
We have all, each in our own way, been called to be a part of this church, this community and neighborhood in some way. We each bring something to the parish community that helps us grow and develop as a church. As I mentioned last week, like bread, the church needs all the ingredients that we bring to be working together in the right proportions in order for us to become the best bread possible for a hungry world.
What is it that you bring; that I bring that transforms us into that life giving bread we read about in Scripture? How do we learn from our past, not forgetting our past, but learning from our past that will help us as a church today? As we reflect on these questions we also need to acknowledge those things that we need to let go of, that prevent us from becoming the best we can be as a community of faith. What do we need to let go of, and move on from, in order for us to grow?
The reality is there is no such thing as a perfect church. There is you and me, who in the final analysis are called to be here for a reason working together to bring about God’s reign here on earth right here, right now. What is it that you bring that helps build a church where the love of Christ is known in each and every person who passes through our doors? When we focus on those gifts, I wonder what that church would look like. Imagine, just imagine, the possibilities open to us when we let go of the stuff that is holding us back.