There is a distinct difference between honoring God and honoring ourselves. The first is righteousness and the second is folly. We need to appreciate the difference. When we do the things that the Lord commands us, are we doing it to glorify God or are we just trying to appear righteous to others? This is the question that Jesus answers in today’s gospel passage.
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites,
as it is written:
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.
Jesus quotes Isaiah in order to remind us that it is the heart that must guide us in righteousness. Actions without the prompting of the heart are ultimately in vain.
Lent begins tomorrow. As you receive your ashes, open your heart to Jesus. The journey to the cross is ahead. In imitation of him, let us give ourselves away in love.