“HEAR ME, ALL OF YOU!”
- There is a confrontation between Jesus and some Pharisees and Scribes who have come from Jerusalem to discuss one of the main issues of the Jewish religion: ‘Purification before meals’.
- At the time of Jesus every Jew was bound to wash thoroughly all the parts of his body that had come into contact with a non-Jew or even to wash any other object considered unclean.
- The Bible has mandated this washing of hands only to the Priest before he could eat the meat of animals sacrificed in the Temple, but the Pharisees had extended this norm to all. The simple people, like the shepherds and the farmers, had more serious matters to think about and so could not really observe this law. For this reason they were despised and avoided as impure, as unclean.
- The spiritual leaders of Israel had distorted the law of God: they had transformed it into an endless set of rules and precepts. Only for their obsessive ritual washing, they were prescribing the use of six different types of water. All these ridiculous rules were man-made, though the religious leaders maintained they were as binding as the Word of God.
- We can never put on the same level the Commandments of God and the ‘traditions of men’: the first cannot change, all the other human laws can be modified.
- Jesus takes a very severe stand against any such distortion of religion which reduced it to a mere observance of a multitude of laws. He states that God has no interest in external cleanliness.
- Like the Prophets of the Old Testament (Amos, Isaiah…), he severely condemns this ‘religious mockery’. The rigorous observance of clear and well-defined norms gives people the feeling of having done their duty, of having secured God’s approval.)
- Jesus refuses a religion that speaks of relation between God and men in terms of obedience to man-made precepts. Instead, he expects total openness to love. Jesus demands that one be truly committed, free, sincere, open to receive the light of God, and attentive to the voice of the Spirit. Jesus states that nothing created by God can make people impure. Impurity - he says - does not come from outside but from within, from the heart of a person and goes on listing twelve sins that make a person unclean, impure… Jesus works as a Catechist Evil and its ensuing actions are intruders: these should never find room in the heart of a person, a child of God.