Track 1: Loving God with All Your Heart
Reading from today’s Gospel:
So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly 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 human precepts as doctrines.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” ()
How did the scribes and Pharisees get so far away from the commandments of God with their rituals and traditions? What was missing? They really did not know or understand God. The Apostle John understood who Jesus was and what he was about. Reading from his First Epistle:
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)
The scribes and Pharisees did not know the love of God. Thus, they did not know God because God is love. Why should rules, doctrines, and traditions take the place of love?
The Pharisees must have known deep down that they did not measure up to what God required. Thus, they laid heavy burdens on others. In that way, they could at least say to themselves that they were better than other people. Why? Because they followed the rules better? In fact, they made up the rules, but Jesus told them that they did not even follow their own rules.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)
For the rules keepers, perhaps it it time to get to know God. The psalmist wrote:
You are the fairest of men;
grace flows from your lips,
because God has blessed you for ever.
Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever,
a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;
you love righteousness and hate iniquity. (Psalm 45:2,7)
And the Book of James:
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. (James 1:17-18)
God made us to shower his love upon us. Can we simply accept his love and love him back? God is wooing us.He wants fellowship with us. Jesus is the bridegroom and we are his bride. Jesus speaks to us: these words:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.” (Song of Solomon 2:13)
Track 2: Suggestion
Mose cautions the Israelites not to add to or distract anything from God’s commandments:
Moses said: So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you. ()
This is exactly what the Pharisees did. Jesus said of them:
“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” (Mark 7:6-8)
Do we do that today?