From within: what defiles

gospel-of-markJesus Answers. 6 He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ 8 You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”…

One should immediately notice that Jesus does not respond to the specifics of the question posed. He responds to their intention and as well their competence for religious leadership. Jesus’ response provides reasoning for rejecting the human traditions that are imposed upon people as an authentic interpretation of the Law. Only the first part appears in the Sunday gospel reading. Jesus first challenges the “elders” with a quotation from Isaiah (vv. 6–7; Isa 29:13) that castigates the people because they substitute human teaching for true devotion to God. The quotation introduces the distinction between outward piety and devotion to God in one’s heart. What is “in the heart” forms the basis for the teaching that follows the exchange between Jesus and his enemies. Jesus substitutes a new understanding of purity. Continue reading

From within: elders

gospel-of-markTradition of the elders. 1 Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. 3 (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. 4 And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles (and beds).)

One is quickly reminded that Mark is writing for a non-Jewish audience as he explains a detail about ritual purification that would be unneeded for a Jewish audience. It also seems clear that Mark has an outsider’s almost disdainful view of the practices (vv.3-4) but in any case there is no interest in Jewish debates on the matter. While the Pharisees with some scribes represent perhaps differing takes on the customs of purification, there is no immediate retort to the customs themselves. Instead, Jesus quickly takes up the tradition of the elders (v.3). Continue reading

From within: traditions

gospel-of-markMark 7:8, referring to “human traditions” is often a verse which non-Catholic folk will hold up as proof text of the manner in which the Catholic Church has gone astray, introducing all manner of non-Biblical beliefs. The usual list includes there is the veneration of Mary, her Immaculate Conception and her bodily Assumption into Heaven. There is also transubstantiation, praying to saints, the confessional, penance, purgatory, and more. There are the variety of would-be apologists that do not understand what the Church offers about these topics, but there are Protestant and Reformed apologists who are quite clear on the Church’s teaching, but hold the root error is that Catholics place Sacred Tradition on the same par as Sacred Scripture. Is there analysis true? Let’s hear from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): Continue reading

From within: context

gospel-of-mark1 Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. 3 (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. 4 And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles (and beds).) 5 So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” 6 He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me;7 In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ 8 You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”… 14 He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. 15 Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”…. 21 From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. 23 All these evils come from within and they defile.” (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23) Continue reading

What is the difference?

Today’s gospel is the last part of the “Bread of Life Discourse” from the Gospel of John. The disciples who have heard Jesus’ preaching, experienced his healing power, seen him command the stormy seas, witnessed the miracles, and hope him to be the promised Messiah – in today’s account we discover that, for some, Jesus’ claim that he is the “bread come down from heaven is a breaking point. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?…As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”  For some it was all a bridge too far, the last straw, and with no reason to stay, they left.  For some, there was motivation, desire, a reason to remain.  I think we have all been there at some point in our lives. What is the difference between those who stay and those who go?

We can all think about our own lives and experiences as a way to plumb the answer. All this make me think of swimming. I have swum competitively most of my life: high school, college, and even these days in the Master’s swim program. I wasn’t gifted with fast-twitch muscles and so have never had a very good sprint. The 200- and 500 yard freestyle, 200-yard backstroke, those were my best events. More of a grinder than a sprinter. But, a couple of years ago I competed in a meet and for some reason signed up for the 1500-meter freestyle – a little outside my usual range, but certainly do-able. Continue reading

We hope…

Last weekend was one in which there was an intersection of what is best and worst about the Catholic Church. We had a mission cooperative weekend scheduled in which we hosted Fr. Machado from St. Rita’s in Dade City. The parish was welcoming, listened to his message, responded generously with financial assistance, and asked “What can we do to help?” Already parishioners are in dialogue with the staff at St. Rita’s seeking to organize some help programs for the school children. It is Church and community at its best when a people sustained and nourished by the Eucharist, spontaneously reach out to help nourish others. Continue reading

Who can accept: final thought

TrinityNow that we reached the end of “The Bread of Life Discourse,” I thought it appropriate to have a “final thought.” I would offer this reflection from Bishop Craig Satterlee, a Lutheran bishop from Michigan [workingpreacher.org]

“Jesus promises rather than instructs or explains. Jesus promises that whoever eats the flesh and drinks the blood of Jesus, the Son of Humanity, has eternal life now and will be raised up on the last day. Jesus promises to provide food for the life of the world, his flesh and blood. Jesus promises to nourish the world with the gift of himself. For the “flesh” and “blood” of Jesus, his incarnate life and very real death on the cross, is life-giving food for us and for the world. In, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion, which is nothing other than Christ’s body and blood, Jesus nourishes faith, forgives sin, and empowers us to be witnesses to the Gospel. What would it mean for preachers to proclaim Jesus’ promises rather than explain the sacrament?” Continue reading

Who can accept: grace and will

Trinity64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. 65 And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” 66 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Some believe and some don’t. This is a theme woven throughout John 6 – the tension between divine initiative and human choice. Verse 65 echoes vv. 37,39, and 55 – we are drawn to Jesus via the initiating action of God. Continue reading

Who can accept: Spirit, Flesh, and Life

Trinity63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life

John 6:63 is often a verse that one arguing against any Eucharistic interpretation of the whole of John 6 brings forward. The logic goes like this: “Jesus is saying things that are confusing. His disciples think he’s being literal. Jesus clears it up by saying “No not at all. I’m not saying that you should eat my flesh. My flesh profits nothing! I’m speaking with Spirit and life, which is metaphorical in nature.” That is more of a “hand waving” argument, but the scholarly argument proceeds along similar lines. Scholars who don’t hold the Bread of Life discourse as Eucharistic present but secondary at best also use the words of v. 63 to buttress their position. How, they argue, could Jesus advocate giving and eating his flesh in vv. 51–58 and reject the value of flesh here? Verses 51–58 thus cannot belong to the core of Jesus’ teaching in chap. 6, and the disciples in vv.60–71 can only be understood as protesting Jesus’ words in 6:35–50, not those in 6:51–58. (In case you miss the subtle of this train of thought, these scholars are arguing vv.51-58 are not part of the original Discourse but were added in later.) Continue reading

Who can accept: grumbling

TrinityChallenging the grumbling. 60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” 61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? 62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?

Before v.60 the dialogue was with the people in the crowds was marked by grumbling, incredulity, and quarrelling. The same range of reactions will be found among those closest to Jesus, the disciples: murmuring (v. 61), disbelief (v. 64), rejection (v. 66), confession of faith (vv. 68–69), and betrayal (vv. 64, 71). Jesus offers his very self – and yet even among the closest there are those who turn away to a former life, forsaking the very author of life. Continue reading