Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year B

Posté par diaconos le 25 août 2021

 You leave aside God’s commandment and cling to human tradition

Beato Angelico, Discorso della montagna

# An ablution is a ritual purification of certain parts of the body before certain religious acts. Water is a symbol of purification found in many major religions In Judaism, the mikveh is a ritual bath used for the ablution necessary for purity rites. In Christianity, water is used for baptism, an act of faith before an assembly in recognising Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord of one’s life (partial or total immersion) and performed by the priest or pastor during mass or worship. The baptised person becomes a « child of God ». In Islam, water is used to purify the Muslim during the ablutions preceding prayers, or salat, as provided by the Koran and the Sunna. In Hinduism, water has purifying powers.

In Shintoism, misogi is purification through a waterfall or stream. Ablutions and the notion of ritual purity are among the legacies of Judaism and Islam, while Christianity has practically abandoned them. In Judaism, it is a ritual purification ranging from immersion of the whole body to a simple sprinkling of water on the hands. The Torah prescribed total immersion in a natural spring, river or ritual bath to purify persons or objects rendered impure by contact with various sources of impurities such as blood or corpses. Bathing in the mikveh is required of a niddah woman so that her husband can have intercourse with her. Bathing in the mikveh is also required of the new convert.

Christianity retains only the symbolic meaning of ablutions in the rite of baptism and the celebration of the Eucharist. Depending on the Church concerned, this rite consists of a simple sprinkling of water on the forehead or a complete immersion in a basin. It is a legacy of the baptismal rite practised by John the Baptist, which already existed in some Jewish sects of his time. During the Eucharistic celebration, before the consecration of the two species where the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, the Catholic priest washes his hands, a purification rite. Thus, when the servant gently pours water over the priest’s hands, the priest recites a verse from Psalm 51: « Lord, cleanse me from my sin and wash away my sins » and dries the water with a liturgical cloth (manuterge). The water used for the celebrant’s ablutions is then poured into a container (pool) for the water of the ablutions or into the earth. Because this water cannot be poured anywhere. Similarly, at the time of the offertory, the priest mixes a little water with the wine in the chalice. This rite was made compulsory in the Catholic Church by the Council of Trent on 13 December 15

From the Gospel according to Mark

01 The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem met with Jesus, 02 and they saw some of his disciples eating with unclean, that is, unwashed hands. 03 For the Pharisees, like all the Jews, always wash their hands thoroughly before eating, because they are attached to the tradition of the elders; 04 and when they return from the market, they do not eat until they have sprinkled themselves with water, and they are attached by tradition to many other practices: washing cups, decanters and plates.

05 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus, « Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders? They eat their meals with unclean hands. 06 Jesus answered them, « Isaiah prophesied well of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 07 In vain do they worship me; the doctrines they teach are only human precepts.

08 You, too, leave aside the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. 14 Calling the crowd together again, he said to them, « Listen to me, all of you, and understand. 15 Nothing that comes out of a man and goes into him can make him unclean. But what comes out of a man is what makes a man unclean. 21 For from within, from the heart of man, come forth evil thoughts: indecency, theft, murder,

22 adultery, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and excess. 23 All this evil comes from within and makes a man unclean.  (Mk 7,1-8.14-15.21-23)

The Pharisees of Jerusalem attack Jesus on ablutions

This meeting of Jesus’ opponents showed the importance of their approach. Perhaps it was an official meeting. Why were these Pharisees and scribes there from Jerusalem, if they had not been sent by the Sanhedrin? Some of his disciples were eating bread with common hands. Common is said in opposition to that which was set apart, sanctified, consecrated.  There was a contamination that had to be removed by ritual ablution.

Mark explained their scruples to his readers, who were strangers to Jewish customs, by adding this phrase: « That is, not purified. Mark interrupts his narrative to explain all these Jewish customs to his readers who, converted from paganism, were unaware of them. He attributes these practices to the Pharisees, who observe them more rigorously, but to all Jews. Washing hands with the fist probably means washing by rubbing one open hand with the other closed, so as to remove all impurities from the palms.

The tradition of the ancients was opposed to the prescriptions of the divine law. These were the customs based on the authority of the ancient Jewish teachers, and were often placed above the law itself. The public square was the place where people gathered and where markets were held.  On their return from there, Jews did not take their meals without purification.  Some interpreters apply this purification to the people, to the food brought back from the marketplace.

Setier is, in Greek, Latin and French, the name of a measure of liquid. This word designates here wine vessels, made of wood or earth. Beds were the kind of couches on which the ancients took their meals, resting on their left elbow. According to Matthew, Jesus answered the question of the Pharisees with another question that would have confused them; then he said, « For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever curses his father or mother, let him do it: whoever curses his father or mother, let him be put to death.

During the discussion, the crowd remained at a distance. As they had heard the accusation against Jesus and his disciples, they must also have heard Jesus’ reply; he called them back to himself and returned to the question that had been put to him. He called them back to himself and returned to the question that had been put to him: « Petty theft, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, folly ». (Mk 7, 22)

Mark presents this enumeration of man’s sins in more detail: that evil thoughts are the generating element0 of which all other sins are but the realization; that the first two terms (adultery, fornication) indicate sins that have their origin in sensuality; that murder, theft, covetousness come from depraved ambition, unless one wishes to attribute the first of these sins to hatred; that vices are evil passions, independent of the acts by which they are manifested.

Wickedness is the effect of that malice which delights in doing evil; fraud expresses here not so much acts of injustice as duplicity, falsehood of character, all that is contrary to righteousness. Dissolution denotes the insolence with which the corrupt man indulges in his depravity; the envious eye is the malignant envy that one bears towards a person and to which popular belief in more than one country attributes an evil influence.

Slander could be an ungodly word spoken against God, but since everything in this list is limited to relationships between people, it is an offensive word directed at one’s neighbour.  It may be noted, moreover, that any passion pushed to the extreme produces actual madness.

There are few passages in Scripture that reveal to us more fully the natural corruption of the human heart than this speech of Jesus Christ. From this, however, it must not be concluded that all moral evil in the world proceeds from man. There is a kingdom of darkness that exerts its influence on him, as well as a power of divine grace that can regenerate him; and then, from this same heart from which evil thoughts and sins come, good feelings and good deeds also come forth.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊  Catholic Daily Readings : click here to read the paper → Sunday, August 29 2021 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

◊ Father Hanly : click here to read the paper →  Homily for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

  Keeping the commandments

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