08Feb Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Gen 1:20ff. After forming man and woman to the divine likeness,God rested and blessed the seventh day.

Mark 7:1ff. Jesus brands it a crime to nullify the plain sense of God’s word by recourse to human traditions and practices.

God’s Dwelling on Earth

The Scriptures for today proclaim the sacredness of the created world. In concluding the work of creation, God first crowns his efforts across the universe by forming humankind to the divine image, “male and female he created them.” While all his other works were good, after creating humankind, God looked… and “found it very good.” Marriage, home and family become an image of the Godhead, and here God must continue to be present. After this ultimate of all works on the sixth day, God proceeded to “rest from all the work he had done” and so “blessed the seventh day.” God does not withdraw from his newly created world in order to rest, but rather rests in the midst of all its beauty and goodness. The world is temple and church; the sound of wind and surf and birdsong are hymns of praise.

From this background we can examine the passage from Mark’s gospel, the better to understand why Jesus spoke as he did. He excoriates the lawyers for “making a fine art of setting aside God’s commandment [that the world, as blessed by God, is to be respected and appreciated] just for the sake of keeping your traditions.” To wash ourselves or our food before eating is good, if it induces respect, cleanliness and a relaxed spirit. Yet if it divides, leads to arguments and a better-than-thou spirit (as seems to have happened), it violates the plan of God to form one large human family made in his own likeness. The Bible is continually cutting down the barriers which we raise. If the word of God sanctions walls for temple and home, it is with the intention of training us to live in the world outside those walls. When we are thoroughly at home in the outside world, then we are ready for heaven, “the highest heavens,” where all God’s children are at home. Therefore, Jesus could not tolerate separations that divide and split apart. People who favour such divisiveness are the hypocrites condemned by the Scripture: This people pays me lip service but their heart is far from me.

First Reading: Genesis 1:20-2:4

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that hehad made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Gospel: Mark 7:1-13

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 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 honours 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! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God) – then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”