Traditions of the Ancestors

– Tuesday 5th Week in Ordinary Time –

“You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human traditions. ”  [Mark 7:8]

Nothing annoys me quite as much as following rules I don’t understand. As a child, it must have driven my parents insane. “Why?” I would ask repeatedly, wanting to understand why a particular rule or barrier was in place. As a parent now, I can see the other side of some of the more confusing rules; it’s going to cause a lot of mess or inconvenience, and I don’t have time to deal with that right now. Yet, occasionally, things were in place for no other reason than ‘just because’ or ‘it’s always been done that way.’

The Pharisees, custodians of the “tradition of the Ancestors” were aghast at the disciples eating food with unclean hands. This on the surface sounds like a good rule to wash your hands! The problem, however, isn’t that the disciple’s hands are unwashed; it is that they are deemed to be ritually and therefore spiritually unclean.

Jesus is quick to point out the hypocrisy. The Pharisees are honouring’ God with their lips, “but their hearts are far from me.” The focus is on human traditions rather than genuinely seeking God. The hard-hitting point arrives at the end of the passage. “You ……make void the word of God through your tradition.” (Mark 7:13)

It is helpful to abide by sensible commandments or rules. This is not however God’s full plan for our lives. God wants us to faithfully and wholeheartedly follow Him in word and action, turning our hearts fully toward Him. Let us seek God by not just holding onto human traditions, but by having our hearts truly transformed by Him.


by Nick Kelly

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