Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we continue the theme of the readings as we heard yesterday, of the Lord creating the whole world and the entire material universe as we know it now. He made all things good and perfect, all free from the taints of imperfections and evil in the beginning. Then indeed, we may be asking, how come then is it that there is so much evil things in the world now? How come is it that there is so much hatred, violence, jealousy and greed around us?
The answer lies in what mankind had committed in disobedience against the Lord, the sins which they have done in the presence of the Lord and men alike. Sin is a sickness of the soul, a blemish in the otherwise perfect and immaculate creations of God, especially for mankind, the greatest of all God’s creations. That is why there is so much evil in the world, so much sadness, sorrow and conflict that strike us all on daily basis.
And that was why God sent His Son Jesus into the world, in order to bring about the true purification of all mankind from the taints of sin. And today’s readings indeed share the same theme, that is cleansing and purification. However, we can see clearly in the Gospel today, the conflict that existed between Jesus our Lord and the Pharisees in how they approach this.
As I have often mentioned, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are notorious for having adopted an excessively strict and unforgiving stance on the interpretation and application of the Law. As a result, they gave a great burden for the people of God to bear. There are many laws, rules and regulations which the people to obey, from things that are truly important to trivial matters and things such as the cleansing of the hands before meals, just as the one mentioned in the Gospel today.
The hereditary laws and customs of the Jewish people stipulated that each person should undergo ritual cleansing, washing and purification regularly, and this includes the ritual washing before meals, where each person are supposed to wash up to and including their elbows. Indeed, such is the complicated nature of the laws, to the point that obeying them and following them required a great deal of effort, and it is likely also that many would lose the true and real intention behind why they even observed those laws in the first place.
And that was why Jesus criticised the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law so much, because they are focused so much on the external cleansing and the purity of their exteriors, that they completely forgot about their insides, that is their heart and soul. It is useless if we are concerned only about the cleansing of our bodies and the exterior, ignoring the correct alignment of our heart, that is our interior.
Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? Christ had mentioned in another passage that to be concerned about which food that is worthy or unworthy, clean or unclean does not make sense, for that which brings about sin and corruption comes not from the outside but rather from the inside. External dirt and filth while unappealing do not bring about the corruption of our beings, but the corruption that is within us will eventually corrupt our bodies and externals as well.
Already this can be seen in how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law reacted to the teachings of Jesus. They professed to be faithful to the Lord and liked to show off their piety by public display through prayers and other actions in the public places, and yet they were so judgmental to sinners and all those who genuinely needed God’s help that you truly would not believe at all that they belonged to the Lord in the first place.
They also rejected Jesus and His teachings and they spat upon His actions, which were clearly the actions of God made real in this world, the manifestation of God’s love and mercy. Instead, they were so blinded by their pride and their hubris, that these eventually led to their eventual downfall. Just as they have rejected the Lord, so will the Lord reject them.
Today, we also celebrate the feast day of St. Scholastica, a holy virgin and saint of God. St. Scholastica by tradition was the twin sister of St. Benedict of Nursia, another great and renowned saint well known for his holiness and dedication to the Lord. Both St. Scholastica and St. Benedict were devoted servants of the Lord who made monastic lifestyle an appealing way of life to the people of God.
Monastic lifestyle is for those who have decided to give all of their lives in complete and total dedication to the Lord. They withdrew from the world and from all forms of worldliness and instead, dedicate themselves in a life of prayer. As such, they commit themselves to a life of contemplation, of looking into themselves and the emptying of oneself of personal ego, but seeking the cultivation of individuals filled with the love of God.
In that way, rather than seeking the purification of the externals first, we focus on the purification of our interiors first, that is to shun all forms of temptations of sin, the lies and sweet words of Satan designed to bring about our downfall. That is what the Lord wants from us, that we all genuinely reject sin and all forms of wickedness and instead follow Him with all of our heart.
May all of us be awakened and see in Christ and all He had done, the abundance of love and mercy which God wants to shower us with, if only that we can listen to Him and learn to practice the faith we have by action and real dedication from the heart. Let us not lose our focus as the Pharisees had lost theirs and let us all be truly faithful, not just in external appearances, but truly love God from the deepest depth of our hearts. God bless us all. Amen.