The Pharisees and scribes are Jewish religious leaders who hold tradition in high regard. In the missing pieces in between the portions of this text, Jesus points out that these leaders even give precedence to some traditions over God’s commandments.
Today’s reading describes the Pharisees and scribes repri-
manding Jesus because his disciples have eaten with unwashed hands. Jewish tradition required that practitioners ritually purify both their hands and their cooking utensils.
Despite the leaders’ ritual cleanliness, Jesus smells hypocrisy. Isaiah’s prophecies were right, insists Jesus. The people perform their religious duties properly, but their hearts are no closer to God for following the rules of tradition. They have forgotten God’s commandments from which the traditions arose.
Jesus points to another way: Right relationship with God comes not through ritual purity and tradition but through a heart set on God and relationship with others. Nothing outside us by going into us can defile us. Sin separates us from God and comes from within us—from our humanity and our capacity for evil. The sins God warns against in the Ten Commandments defile us, and they come from within our hearts.
So how do we avoid sin? A few chapters later, Mark gives us Jesus’ answer: Love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves.
Dear Jesus, love comes through God’s commandments. Write the greatest of these on our hearts so that we may better love you and others. Amen.
The poetry of Song of Solomon is thick with romantic imagery, and most scholars agree that these lines mean what they say on the surface; they are written from the author to the beloved. Psalm 45 echoes the refrain of admiration and desire. Such desire is not wrong if it is awakened at the proper time, as the author of Song of Solomon says elsewhere. James argues that ethical living is done not in word but in deed. True religion is not putting on a show but displaying mercy and controlling the tongue. Jesus rebukes some of the religious leaders in Mark on this very account because they talk of obedience to God but do not live it out. What we say and what we do should match.
• Read Song of Solomon 2:8-13. The narrative poetry of Song of Solomon invites us into the Bible in a way that differs from other texts. How does God speak to you through this poetry?
• Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9. Intimate human love can reflect God’s love. How do your relationships honor the gift of love?
• James 1:17-27. How do you bring God’s love to those who need it?
• Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. Are you simply going through the motions of faith, or is your heart close to God?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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