Jesus confirms that a man’s evil acts are the result of an impure heart. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by building the Virtue of Piety so he can observe and cherish the Traditions of the Church and by growing in the Virtue of Prudence so he can diligently seek to purify his heart. 

Liturgy

22nd Week in Ordinary Time – Sunday – Cycle B – Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Commentary

As news of Jesus’ reputation grows, the religious leaders of Jerusalem send out men to discredit Him. The Pharisees (meaning, “separated ones”) were a powerful Jewish renewal movement within Israel that sought to enforce strict ritual codes to keep Jews from being defiled by the Roman occupiers, hoping to gain God’s favor, and to restore Israel to political independence. The Pharisees developed stringent personal rituals and traditions which took the Laws of Moses to extremes, causing the Pharisees to blindly focus on ritual details, distracting them from extending mercy to others. 

Confronting Jesus, Pharisee scribes (experts in the Law) accuse His disciples of failing to keep the Pharisee’s strict hand-washing rules; they are not primarily concerned about hygiene but take issue with lax religious discipline. Jesus aggressively responds, insulting the the Pharisees by calling them hypocrites (“pretenders”), and condemning their arrogant rebellion against God, using the words of Isaiah (Is 29:13). 

Jesus turns to the centrality of the heart; in the biblical sense, the heart is the center of a man from which good and evil decisions originate that lead to holy or sinful deeds. Jesus points to the greater spiritual truth that a man’s true defilement is sinfulness brought on by an impure heart: “evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Because of these kinds of vices and sins, men must repent and undergo a conversion of the heart so that they can live up to the higher purpose of loving God and neighbor. 

Be awed by Jesus Christ

Consider with awe the fierceness of Jesus as He Aggressively confronts the Pharisees and scribes who have come to judge Him: refusing to be intimidated by the power and influence of the Pharisees, Jesus speaks Truth with tremendous Courage (a part of Fortitude), knowing they will eventually murder Him; He argues from the Authority (Ethos, a part of Reason) of ancient Scripture (Isaiah) to bluntly Condemn the Pharisees’ religious practices as unjust and Insulting them as hypocrites (pretenders); Divine Justice, He reconfirms the defiling/damning impact of, and His absolute opposition to, a long list of Sins, a warning to men across time. 

Observe and cherish the Traditions of the Church

Realize: Though Jesus justly condemns the false, man-made traditions of the Pharisees, today, many mistakenly use this Scripture passage in a failed attempt to undercut the validity of Catholic tradition (Latin: traditionnem, “a handing down”), arguing that Scripture is the only valid source of guidance; ironically, all the Scripture in the New Testament was derived from the oral traditions of the Church which were not written down until decades after Christ’s Ascension. 

Believe: Reflect upon the Tradition of the Church (CCC 74-100).

Pray: Almighty Father, help me build the Virtue of Piety (a part of Justice) so I always cherish and fervently observe the traditions Your Son gave the Holy Catholic Church and that were preserved by Your holy saints throughout the centuries. 

Use prudence to pursue purification

Realize: To live up to the Moral Law, Jesus calls men to inner conversion, confirming that men must purify their hearts so they can fully embrace holiness. 

Believe: Reflect upon the Purification of the Heart (CCC 2517-2519).

Pray: Almighty Father, help me build the Virtue of Prudence so I petition You to help me purify my heart, prudently confront my sins, use foresight to avoid the near occasion of sin, build a disciplined habit to regularly examine my conscience, and frequently return to the Sacrament of Penance when I sin to be forgiven, and return again to the Spiritual Combat.