In today’s Gospel from the Mass (Mark 7:1-13), Jesus responds to the Pharisees after they imply that He and the disciples are not sufficiently holy:

[1] Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, [2] they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed.  [3] (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders;  [4] and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.) [5] And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?” [6] And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, `This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;  [7] in vain do they worship me,teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ [8] You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.” [9] And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! [10] For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother’; and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die’;  [11] but you say, `If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God) — [12] then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, [13] thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.”

Jesus responds to the criticisms of the Pharisees and the scribes by publicly rebuking them in a devastating way:

  • Recall that the Pharisees and the Scribes were highly respected as keepers of the Law; they were also a sort of “religious police” who sought to encourage, or bully, when necessary, Jews into pious behaviors in the belief that God would bless Israel if she were holy enough and expel the Romans.
  • The Pharisees were not a group to mess with; they routinely denounced those who stepped out of line:  the Pharisees are the ones who instigate the stoning of the women caught in adultery (John 8:1) and have a hand in Christ’s own death.
  • Jesus is accused of breaking an oral law regarding the washing of hands.  Oral laws were laws that were added over the centuries to the Mosaic law.
  • It is important to note that the Pharisees are not worried about hygiene, but religious laxity; in essence, they are insulting Christ and implying that Jesus was not sufficiently holy!
  • Jesus responds with vigor and a harsh bluntness: He calls the Pharisees hypocrites, referring to Isaiah.  He tells them that:
    • They only pretend to honor God; they do not truly honor God in their hearts, the most important place.  He is saying that the Pharisees look like they are holy, but that they are not.
    • They prefer to teach their own doctrines, while ignoring the Commandments of God.  This is a serious indictment, for it means that the Pharisees are not only ignorant or devious, but that they are breaking God’s commandments; this certainly would lead to death.
    • They are breaking the 4th Commandment (Honor thy father and mother).  Evidently, the Pharisees said that money given to the Temple (e.g. Corban) must be given priority over taking financial care of parents. Jesus condemns the Pharisee’s practice for it goes against the 4th Commandment, which must take precedence, for it is God’s commandment and violates scriptural direction to care for parents (Ex 20:12; Deut 5:16); and still is directed by the Church (CCC 2218).
  • Jesus has just offered a very harsh public rebuke, using the very scriptures that the Pharisees actively promoted to condemn them.

There are many today, modern day Pharisees, who seek to bully people into their interpretations about what Jesus meant in His teachings.

Jesus, as a member of the Trinity, offers the Old Testament to men in the first place.  He did not tolerate the twisting of His words during the Incarnation; and He does not tolerate the manipulation of His words today.

Turn to the only trusted source for the true interpretation of Christ; the Catholic Church that He Himself founded.