Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Traditions are an odd thing, many times they are valued for their important link to the past. They often help to both define and bind a society.Many times they are memorable, sometimes they are good, often they are not so good, and on occasion they are simply bad; but we follow them because they are tradition. It was traditional for the Pharisees to ritually wash their hands prior to eating. Ritual is not simply removing dirt, it is following a specific tradition which often has explicit instructions detailing everything from the type of water to be used and the specific technique. It is not a bad thing in itself as it is a reminder to be clean before God, but it can be burdensome for those unable to follow it as prescribed; and has the bad effect of classifying someone who does not follow the practice as “ritually unclean.” The true damage though occurs when these ritual traditions increase in number, and the number of people able to follow them drastically decreases. That leads to a fractured society of good versus bad or holy versus unholy.But the question is; are the good truly good, the holy truly holy, and likewise the bad truly bad and unholy? Does it instead simply lead to mean that the good and holy are simply the ones able to follow the tradition or that the good and holy created traditions to define themselves? Jesus challenges the Pharisees on their tradition and replaces it with a new tradition defining holy and good as coming from within a person, rather than from their outward display. It creates tradition that everyone has the God-Given means to follow.In this new tradition, clean hands are replaced with a clean heart.If the ritual cleaning of hands creates a clean heart in some, it becomes a good tradition for them. If it distances a person from attaining holiness, if it places a barrier in front of holiness that can not be crossed; it is not a worthy tradition for that person, but simply an obstacle. In Jesus view there is no obstacle that God places in front of holiness that can not be overcome. Obstacles that do so are clearly the work of man and barriers such as these should truly be avoided.