Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our gospel passage today begins with an introduction on Jewish practices for Mark’s gentile audience. Note also that the quotation from Isaiah 29:13 comes from the Greek translation familiar to gentile Christians rather than the Hebrew familiar to Jesus and the first disciples. We then encounter one of several controversies Jesus had with the Scribes and Pharisees, this one focussed on traditional purification rituals. And this is where the link to the first reading comes to the fore: You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition. Unfortunately, phariseeism is a risk for every believer, something that happens every time we turn the gospel into a list of dos and don’ts and judge people who in our view do not keep the rules. Look at the state of the Church in Ireland and elsewhere for a reality check. We all hold onto patterns, processes, institutions and behaviours that have nothing to do with the gospel. Mark then offers us a parable about the key significance of the inner life. It is what is in the heart that counts, and it is the heart that determines our Christian and human integrity. We forget that the inner life becomes real though concrete gestures grounded in love, empathy, generosity and compassion. It can also reveal the hard heart, the closed mind, the rigid attitude, and the victory of darkness. Where do we stand when radical change is needed? Jesus is always doing something new. Are we truly open to his loving action?