Here is a simple anecdote known to many of us (perhaps in different versions)…
There was soap manufacturer, who professed atheism.
>> He however had a wonderful friend who was a devout God-believing person – going around different places, preaching the Gospel.
Once, during an evening walk, the soap manufacturer said, “Look around at the evil and wickedness that is prevalent in our world today.
People killing each other, mercilessly.
>> Women and children subjected to horrific abuses.
>> Peace and harmony fearing to walk openly, afraid that they would be mangled and devoured by the forces of injustice!
The Gospel that you preach has just not done much good.
>> Wickedness is so much in the air and seems to be ever increasing!”
The God-fearing friend made no reply to these hard-hitting, yet factual comments until they passed by a little child, who was playing in the mud.
>> The child had dirtied himself badly.
Discovering his chance, the devout friend said, ” Look around at the dirt and the uncleanness that is prevalent everywhere.
The soap that you manufacture has just not done much good.
>> Dirt and uncleanliness is so much around and seems to be ever increasing!”
“Oh, but that’s not fair to say!” said the soap manufacturer, “soap is useful only when it is applied!”
“Exactly”, said the preacher-friend, “so it is with the Gospel that I preach!
It is effective, only when put to use!”
Has the Gospel of the Lord become effective and meaningful in our lives …?
… or is it remaining unused, and causing us to remain dirtied in sin and unclean in lifestyle?
The Gospel of the Day is a wake-up call to discover the Power of God’s Word to cleanse our lives and to abandon our mentality of ‘just being content’ in having the Gospel as a mere “decorative and ornamental” value in our lives.
The Gospel passage begins on a “complaint note” with the Pharisees and some Scribes, finding fault with the Disciples of Jesus, who ate with hands defiled. (Mk 7:2)
Firstly, isn’t it pretty ironical, that the Pharisees and Scribes, who were judicious in their keeping of the Law, failed to recognize Jesus, the Author of the Law Himself?!
Jesus was growing in popularity as the Mighty Healer, the Great Preacher and a Powerful Transformative Force.
But the Pharisees and the Scribes, somehow, failed to discover these Divine elements in Him.
>> Every time they saw Jesus, they would look for something to find fault in Him
>> Every time they heard Jesus, they would sneak a chance to find a loophole in His teachings
>> Every time, they encountered Jesus, they would fastidiously seek to put Him to the test and grill Him
This “Pharisaic and Scribal” tendency is not to be directly condemned or rashly judged…
… They were a group, trying to make sure that Jesus was not any of those false prophets (who were plenty in those days) and wanted to corrupt their pure religion
… They were also wanting to test and prove the authenticity of “the one who came from Nazareth” and His claims to be the Messiah
However, beyond these “innocent intentions” of the Pharisees and Scribes, it is to be also noted, that this “law-protecting” and “law-fanatic” group of Scribes and Pharisees had also slipped into grave dangerous zones…
>> They were critical..
… but they also drenched themselves in total skepticism and gave no room for any openness to the truth or to God’s Spirit talking to them!
>> They were strict followers of the Law…
… but they had also failed to authenticate their zealous following, with a life of mercy, justice and love, which was the aim and goal of the Law!
>> They declared themselves as being faithful to God’s Law …
… but they had also precipitated this Divine Law into hundreds of man-made stipulations and cruelly insisted on its following, without being aware that God’s basic purposes for the Law were being abandoned and trampled upon!
And so our Blessed Lord, makes a scathing attack and strongly exhorts them to move from a mere “decorative and ornamental” understanding of the Law…
… towards a radically “transformative and life-changing” practice of the Law.
>> They insisted only on the strict ritualistic washing of vessels and cups and pots..
.,.. But Jesus exhorts them to first cleanse the sinful vessels of their mind and the adulterous pots of their hearts
>> They insisted only on the austere cleansing of their hands..
… But Jesus exhorts them to first wash the defiled fingers of their duplicity and the dirtied palms of their pride
The attack on the Pharisaic and Scribal attack is also a lesson and reminder for us to examine our attitudes in life and to make the necessary changes…
Have I adopted a “decorative and ornamental” understanding of being a Christian, and just be happy to be “called as a Christian”, enjoying some of the privileges and comforts that come along with it…
… or do I allow God’s Gospel to powerfully effect changes in me?
Am I just satisfied with “external cleanliness” – either in just being neat and tidy or in looking glamorous and fashionable or in being constantly bothered only with my external looks…
… or do I take steps to cleanse my heart of all sinful tendencies and to allow the rivers of God’s grace to wash away my inner defilements?
Sin is a deep reality of our lives…
… whether we like it or not… we accept it or not.
Do I be satisfied with just remaining a Christian and “appearing” to be a Follower of Christ, with some basic Church obligations fulfilled…
… or do I truly open my heart to allow God’s spirit to “heal me from within” of all my evil tendencies and social negligences?
May our Blessed Lord give us the blessing to “put His Gospel into true effect”, so that our lives may shine brightly, not just externally, but more importantly, from His grace that flows from within.
God Bless! Live Jesus!