by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
August 29, 2012
A group of Pharisees from Galilee approach Jesus with an attitude of criticism. They don't come alone. They're accompanied by some scribes who have come from Jerusalem, undoubtedly concerned about defending the orthodoxy of the simple peasants of the villages. Jesus' actions are dangerous. It's appropriate to correct them.
They have observed that, in some respects, his disciples don't follow the tradition of the elders. Although they're talking about the disciples' behavior, their question is directed at Jesus since they know that he's the one who has taught them to live with that surprising freedom. Why?
Jesus answers with some words from the prophet Isaiah that illuminate his message and actions very well. We should listen attentively to these words with which Jesus totally identifies, since they touch on something very fundamental in our faith. According to the prophet, this is God's complaint.
"This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." This is always the risk of any religion: worshipping God with the lips, repeating formulas, reciting psalms, uttering beautiful words, while our hearts "are far from Him." However, the worship that pleases God is born from the heart, from inner commitment, from that private center of the individual from which our decisions and plans are born.
"The worship they give me is empty." When our hearts are far from God, our worship is empty. It lacks life, sincere listening to the Word of God, love of brothers and sisters. Religion becomes something external that's practiced out of habit, but where the fruits of a life that is faithful to God are missing.
"The doctrines they teach are human precepts." In every religion there are traditions that are "human." Norms, customs, devotions that have arisen to live out religiosity in a given culture. They can do a lot of good. But they also do a lot of harm when they distract us and alienate us from the Word of God. They should never take precedence.
After the quotation from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus sums up his thoughts with some very serious words: "You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition." When we cling blindly to human traditions, we run the risk of forgetting the commandment to love and going astray from following Jesus, the Word of God incarnate.
In the Christian faith, Jesus and his call to love always come first. Only then do our human traditions come, however important they may seem to us. We must never forget what is essential.