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Thursday, 26 August 2021 10:45

Celebrating At Home - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Washing hearts, not hands

This weekend we resume reading from St Mark’s Gospel. This Sunday’s episode is about ritual purity verses purity of heart. The Pharisees were a group of especially observant Jews. They took ritual observance very seriously. These observant Pharisees and some scribes criticise the disciples for ‘not following the tradition of the elders’ by not washing their hands before eating.

This passage is not about good hygiene but about a ritual practice. By the time of Jesus the Pharisees wanted to extend the laws of ritual purity, which applied only to priests, to all the people. Jesus accuses them of substituting the law of God with mere human regulations.

The second point that Jesus makes is that it is not what goes into a person from outside which makes them unclean, but what they harbour in their hearts and minds.

We, too, can fall into the trap of thinking that our ritual practices (going to Mass, saying the Rosary, etc) are all that is necessary to be good followers of Jesus.

Some Christians seem to think that ritual practice is about being at rights with God; almost like ‘paying God off ’. That having been done, they are free to do what they like in their actions towards other human beings.

The teaching of Jesus in the Gospel today challenges both those views.

It is the reform of our hearts, not our ritual practices, which needs attention and is most important in living out the vocation God has given us. If the goodness of God is not seen through us, where can it be seen?

Jesus reminds his listeners that evil does not come from the outside, but from within. According to Jesus, being at rights with God is not achieved through ritual practice but through inner conversion to the mind and heart of God.

Real religion, according to the Jesus tradition, is not about ritual practise but about how we treat each other.

It’s our hearts, not our hands, which need washing.

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Celebrating at Home is a Liturgy of the Word centred around the Gospel reading for each Sunday. It includes a reflection on the Gospel and prayers.

It can be used personally or with your family. Parts for all to pray are given in bold print and all the other parts can be shared among those present.

We hope that Celebrating at Home will be a source of nourishment and strength for all who use it.

In the room you decide to use for this prayer you could have a lighted candle, a crucifix and the Bible. These symbols help keep us mindful of the sacredness of our time of prayer and can help us feel connected with our local worshipping communities.

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