22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2nd September, 2018

Liturgical Reflection

James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23


Human Traditions

We humans do like to concentrate on the tangible, on the controllable, dare I say on the peripherals of life. We all love to tell everybody else how they should be conducting their lives. We are rather good at that, and so once we get into a position of power, be it on the world stage or just in our own households we love to flaunt our rather pathetic wondrousness and lord it over those that we deem in need of our superior wisdom.

It is here that my thoughts turn to what could be perceived as the lesser items on the list of ‘evil things’ that are spoken about at the end of today’s gospel as coming from the interior person: ‘avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride and folly’.

While the big ticket items of ‘fornication, theft, murder and adultery’ are probably not common habits among this readership (possibly because their repercussions are usually immediate and not easily hidden) the aforementioned examples can easily creep into our behaviours, sometimes without our realising they are there. Jesus knew this. All of these, he says are what make a person ‘unclean’ and the resulting mess needs to be cleaned up not so much with soap and water but with prayer and sacrament.

But the human traditions are where we hang our hats, and very comfortable they are too. ‘He is a devout Catholic’ we say as he hurries himself to church each Sunday, never minding that he treats his family abysmally the rest of the week. ‘So is she’, we agree, singing in the choir and always bringing a tasty plate to parish gatherings. We apparently see no problem in her arguing in favour of the off shore detention of refugees because it’s ‘stopped the boats’.

The traditions of society, church and family are important and it is necessary that we know and acknowledge them and even honour what went before.

The laws of Moses were handed down to the Jewish people, no doubt for very good reasons. The laws of our church and also of our state were likewise considered necessary and initiated by people of wisdom and conviction.



However customs and traditions need to be viewed through the lens of time, they need to be constantly evaluated and amended to suit existing conditions and not slavishly followed so as to become a hindrance, a stumbling block on our journey with Our Lord Jesus.

We must take St James’ advice and not ‘deceive ourselves’ but remember the commandments of God especially the greatest one – love of God and love of neighbour.

Judith Croke