Gospel reflection: A reminder to stay true to the command to love

Lot La is washing his son’s hands.

Sue Allerton, from Our Lady of Grace parish near Manchester reflects on our true qualities in this week’s gospel (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23).

Based on the gospel for Sunday 2 September 2018 – Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

“Our true qualities are to be seen in our words and deeds”.

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This week, we resume reading from St Mark’s Gospel, and immediately we have a confrontation story, with Jesus challenging the purity laws of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus criticises their rituals as play-acting; they are pretending to be the true people of God by imposing strict observance on everyone, without, crucially, following the supreme law of love.

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Jesus argues that what defiles a person is not what is taken in by eating with unclean hands but what is given out in our actions. He explains, our true qualities are to be seen in our words and deeds. Jesus is saying that man-made laws like hand washing are only useful up to a point. They are not enough, and they mustn’t be used to exclude people. Jesus wants to widen the boundaries of the community and take the entrance requirements out of the hands of the scribes and Pharisees.

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Mark places this story immediately before Jesus’s journey into Gentile country, preparing the ground for new fellowship between Jews and Gentiles. We are invited through the gospel to work for justice and peace, fellowship and inclusion in the world’s poorest communities.

Father God,

Keep us true to your command to love all people as brothers and sisters. Open wide our hearts to work for justice and peace for everyone. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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