Christ reminds us today that what justifies us is not the externals, or rather I would say, not just the externals, but even more important is the internal. If our soul is not clean, and we do not keep ourselves pure in heart and filled with the love of God, we will not be able to justify ourselves before God, even if we do all the rites correctly and follow all the traditions. Christ today is not about abolishing all traditions and rites, as arguably many who misunderstood and misinterpreted these words of the Lord as the abhorrence against all sorts of tradition, including the Apostolic Tradition of our own Holy Roman Catholic Church, would believe, and therefore would even attack the Church Christ has established, just because we keep the Tradition and follow closely the teachings passed down to us from the Apostles.
What Christ meant was that, we should not and indeed must not follow traditions blindly. Tradition is good, and indeed it is necessary, but to follow the tradition just because for the sake of following it or just because it is there is ultimately empty. What Christ wants is that we understand the Traditions, and follow the Tradition with the correct heart and alignment of our being towards God through these traditions. For these Traditions, unlike those of the extreme Laws made by the Jewish leaders at that time, should serve to make one closer to God, by the correct orientation of our hearts towards Him, through greater understanding of our faith, through the Tradition!
The Jews has a total of 613 laws that was crafted from the laws given by God to Moses in the Mountain of the Lord, Mount Horeb. These laws govern many things in the Jewish community, from etiquette, marriage, and even to simple matters like the washing of hands and eating utensils as mentioned in today’s Gospel passage. However, strict adherence to these laws, including that of the Sabbath often mentioned, has made man actually subservient to these laws, being no more than just slaves to the Tradition these elders created from the laws of God given to Moses.
These laws, while they were good, they were there because of the rebellious nature of the people of Israel against God at that time. Remember that while Moses was up on the mountain, the people of Israel revolted and forced Aaron to build for them a golden calf for them to worship as their god. This and many other instances of disobedience has caused the Lord to be tough against the people of Israel, all out of His love for them, desiring their salvation, and did not wish them to falter again and fall into hell due to them worshipping pagan gods instead of the One, True God.
However, Christ had come, not to abolish all the laws and Tradition, but rather to perfect them. He was there to make the understanding of these Tradition and laws much clearer to us. For in Christ, the greatest thing is love, and nothing is greater than love, either one’s love for God, or one’s love for his or her brethren. It is in the love of God that we have to base our Tradition, and He was set to make all the rules and Laws truly pure again, that is to have these laws solely for the purpose of glorifying God and to make all of us closer to God, and not instead make us slaves to these laws and be suppressed by them.
For God, who had created the world, the entire universe, had created mankind, in His image, to be the greatest and the most beloved of all His creations. To us, He has given authority over all creation, and over the world. These laws are there, because as administrators of this world, we must be responsible administrators, and use the resources given to us wisely. Otherwise, being weak as we are, we would readily succumb to greed and wanting for more and more. Ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin at the Garden of Eden, mankind had been subject to the sin of greed and avarice, to desire more and more from what is given to them by God, even to the extent of causing suffering and death to their fellow men. This is what the Lord does not want from us, as He wants us to rule over creation, but rule responsibly and wisely.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, we who have received the Good News of the Lord, and who through the Apostolic Tradition and teachings passed down to us from the Apostles through our bishops and priests, should strive to follow and understand the Sacred Tradition and the faith that we have, utilising both in our race and journey towards the Lord. For faith without nurturing will not grow, and through the beauty of the Tradition, manifested in the Liturgy of the Church, we can grow deeper in faith, if we open ourselves to understanding more on the Liturgy and the Tradition we have.
This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important for us to appreciate the Liturgy, to seek to fully understand every rites and parts of our Liturgy in the Mass and other celebrations, and to fully participate through our greater understanding, that whenever we attend the Mass, as frequently as we can do so, we will grow ever greater in our faith and love of the Lord, so much that not only that we are brought closer to the Lord who created us, and who loves us so much to send His Son, Jesus Christ to explain to us about the Traditions, and to shed more light to us so that we can understand our faith in Him better through these Sacred Traditions and rites; but also to be good and responsible stewards of this world and its resources, as given by God to be our right, but also to be our responsibility to take care of.
Let us therefore pray that all of us will be able to grow deeper in our understanding of the Liturgy of the Church, and through it the Sacred Tradition and teachings given to us through the Apostles, and finally to grow ever deeper in our love and passion for the Lord. May God always bless all of us, all the days of our life. Amen!