Monday, February 12, 2019
So the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” Then He said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!” – Mark 7:5-9
To “holy” men and Bible scholars Christ directed this provoking challenge … “you reject the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!” And I believe that this teaching of Christ penetrates far deeper than the ceremonial washing of hands, but to traditions, good or bad, that are embedded in one’s culture.
In Sunday School and in seminary, we are taught that these traditions are the detailed applications of a principle who, in time, became rules. And in further time … the rules lose touch with the original principle. And Christ is speaking not to a problem back then and there … but to an ongoing problem in the nature of the zealously devout in whatever time and place. Even today.
The discernment in this teaching of Christ is, of course, what is the commandment of God and what is the tradition of Man? And in one’s own time in history, in one’s own culture, in one’s own “sacred” practice, we are near incapable of make that sensitive discernment.
A shallow example to illustrate … when I first began ministry in Kentucky and Florida dancing in the Church was sinful. For some reason, “folk dancing” might possibly be allowed … but to be safe, no dancing allowed. Toe the life of me … I cannot trace this tradition back to its original command from the Lord.
Another tradition nailed to some churches in a warning with invisible words … “NO COLORED ALLOWED”. The “devout” defenders would offer the Biblical argument of segregation. And for shockingly many, this tradition was sacred, never be to be challenged.
Now and then I witness “hatred” being renamed as “holy wrath”. Now and then I witness the figurative “burning of heretics” justified by the processes of “purifying the faith”. Now and then I witness a blatant syncretism of nationalism and Christianity in a claim that “we” are the people of God. Now and then I witness a once societal-taboo based on a former limited understanding being perpetuated for the sake of the tradition.
Loved Ones, day by day I seek to live in response to the actual commandment of God … Love God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul, and love others as you have been loved by God. I try to live it purely … cleansed of all the cultural tradition that we so habitually ordain as something holy.
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz