Jesus scolds the Pharisees in today’s gospel, who challenge him by pointing out that some of his disciples fail to follow the purification laws. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees is exposed by Jesus as he quotes the words of the prophet Isaiah:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
In vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
Is Jesus’ criticism still relevant to us today? Do we, like the Pharisees, honor God with our lips while our hearts are far from him? We would be short-sighted indeed if we believe that we are immune to the worship of rite and ritual that blinded the religious leaders in the time of Jesus. Are not sometimes our efforts at worship in vain? It is not the forms of devotion and worship that are to blame. Instead, it is our use of them that sometimes take us away from God. Our customs, our traditions, our rites all must bring us closer to God. If they do not, we need to look inside of ourselves and readdress ourselves to God in humility. There he will find us, and we will see him as he truly is.