Rend Your Hearts
Gospel Reflection Feb. 6: Mark 7:1-15
You can read the daily readings at the USCCB website.
I listen to podcasts a lot. One on my regular list is the Jen Fulwiler Show and on a recent episode she was talking about how we choose to prioritise our time. While referencing and affirming another person's method, she highlighted a key point that was either left unsaid or missing: make sure you know why you’re prioritising it. For instance, if I want to prioritise date nights with my husband what I want to make manifest in the schedule is time for connection with him. If I just prioritise making sure that date night is scheduled, my underlying desire to connect with my husband may not necessarily be met. While prioritising having time together can be important to achieving the purpose, it is not itself the purpose.
The particular action that expresses the purpose I want to achieve (in this case, date nights) can also run into trouble when there are other variables that are not (fully) under my control *cough* children *cough.* When life hits a season of chaos, current methods of prioritising time may become more of a hindrance than a help. Ultimately, the particular action is meant to express the purpose: desire to have meaningful connection. Incongruency between these two things can lead to bitterness, frustration, hurt, and disappointment because the purpose is not being met.
All that to say that Jesus draws this attention to the Pharisees and scribes: they are elevating an action meant to express its purpose up to the level of purpose. Yet even worse – the purpose has become subordinate to the action!
What then is the purpose?
Holiness. The ultimate purpose is holiness.
Their ancestors were called out of Egypt to become God’s people so that their God would dwell with them. To become God's people, they would need to worship God, the Holy One of Israel; for God to dwell with them, they would need to become holy.
The purpose of the Law? To help them to rend their hearts to God so that they could offer him fitting worship. However, the Pharisees and scribes accuse Jesus of not following the tradition of the elders.
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.
They do not seek to express their ultimate purpose through these traditions; they do not intend to rend their hearts to God by these actions and so Jesus calls them out: they pay God only lip service. Their worship is in vain because they have elevated a particular expression of their ultimate purpose into a Purpose of its own: "teaching as doctrines human precepts."
There would be nothing wrong with the human precepts if they served their purpose! As Christians, this is how we are meant to understand the Law: its purpose is to make us holy so that we can be God’s people and so that God can dwell in us.
I am challenged by Jesus to take a look at my actions and evaluate: are they leading me to holiness? If not, what do I need to do to rend my heart so that they can achieve their purpose? Or what do I need to change to account for the variables in my life better and so find more appropriate expressions of their purpose, such as prayer, the works of mercy, and other aspects of my faith?
Lord Jesus, I pray that we may be guided by your Spirit to identify where my expressions of faith are incongruent with your purpose for me. Help us all to humble our hearts before you so that you, O Love, may dwell incarnated within us and overflow out from us to all. Amen.