Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
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.
—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. —
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?”
“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.”
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.”
At home we have a family room. It was designed and laid out to accommodate all six of us comfortably. We have an extra-long couch and a big screen TV and it’s a nice place to gather as a family or to relax alone. However, during the summer when all the kids are at home it can easily turn into a battle zone when one of my kids wants to play video games and the other wants to binge watch Netflix. Either way it is a much-used space in our home. Sometimes used too much. This week I wanted to sit in front of the TV to take in a Giants game, but when I walked in the family room ready to enjoy some down time, I saw that the room was a disaster. One of my many little quirks is that I can’t sit and relax in a messy room. If the room is in a state of disarray, I get antsy and just can’t seem to unwind. So, I summoned my all four of my kids into the room and asked them to clean up the mess.
Now, if it were a few misplaced items, I’d have just done it myself, but the kids and their friends really out did themselves this time. There were the remnants of a burrito, partially full soda cans, glasses, game controllers, sleeping bags and blankets, Dominic’s socks which the dog usually eats, and wrappers from a variety of snacks. You get the picture. So, amidst all this mess, I asked the kids to simply and quietly clean everything up. Immediately, my kids broke out into a chaotic chorus of accusations and finger pointing. One would say, “You were the last to use it.” And the other would respond,” Yeah, but you took it out.” Another would say, “You said you were going to put it back.” while the other would respond, “No I didn’t.” All the while, the volume of their discord grew, and the mess was not getting cleaned up. I just wanted to watch a Giants game.
I share this with you this morning because on a greater scale all of us gathered here are witnessing the same type of discord as it pertains to our greater Catholic community. Since the news broke out about the reprehensible actions of clergy in Pennsylvania, a cacophony of voices has swelled to a deafening pitch. Accusations and innuendos are being hurled back and forth in a clamorous battle whose only intention is to further agendas and to create division. A whole lot of nasty bickering is going on with absolutely nothing getting done. And here we are just a bunch of regular Catholics who want to grow closer to God.
In today’s Gospel passage we see the same type of disingenuous activity. The Pharisees see that Jesus’ disciples don’t commit themselves to the same types of rituals that were common to Jews at the time. So, they question Jesus. Although their questions aren’t asked out of curiosity but rather as a way of incriminating Jesus. Jesus sees right through their little charade and rebukes them, calling the Pharisees hypocrites.
Similarly, in recent weeks a flurry of letters and news reports from both in and outside of our church, have emerged that are causing wide spread devastation and pain. Wounds that have barely begun to heal are being thrust open once again. This church, our church, is supposed to stand for love, peace, forgiveness, charity and healing, today finds itself mired in the worst kind of controversy. The actions committed by some clergy were just plain evil. And honestly, it is just that each perpetrator of these horrific crimes has their name made public. What these guys did was just plain wrong. But the issue I’m having is the church’s response to all of this. Instead of establishing an environment of healing it seems that some would rather promote a dialog of discord, dissention and division. How can this possibly help us?
Now, Catholic means universal. Clearly this implies a sense of unity and togetherness. The church is supposed to be the mystical body of Christ here and now. This is to say if Christ was moving around our city today, he’d most certainly alleviate the suffering of the poor and the sick and the marginalized. He’d promote love as a way to experience a oneness with God.
Now at home when all the kids were engaged in their hurling of accusations and their dodging of responsibility, I simply put my foot down and exercised my right of parental mandate. I told the kids to be quiet and clean up the mess. They did, albeit reluctantly and I got to watch the Giants game.
If only the issues with the church could be dealt with so swiftly. But the reality is that what is plaguing us right now is infinitely more complicated as there have been so many folks who have been hurt immeasurably. I truly wish I had the answer to fix this problem. And after reading a multitude of letters from bishops and others I’m not sure these guys know what to do either.
I can only tell you what I am doing amidst all my frustrations and at times anger. I pray. When I see folks who are hungry, I try to give them food. When I encounter people who are seeking Christ, I share with them how Christ has forever changed my life. When I experience pain because of other’s actions or words, I try to let compassion move me to forgiveness. I try to encourage and support people whenever I can. I try to love as Christ loves us. And ultimately, that is what each of us here are called to do. That’s the beauty of our Eucharistic celebration today. We take the same love we receive and experience from Jesus and pass it on to all who we encounter.