The Pharisees and scribes have come all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee. Jesus is becoming such a force to reckon with that the religious establishment based on the big city has bothered to come to Jesus to question him about his teachings on religious practices. They ask Jesus in particular regarding the ablution of hands, a practice longer and more complicated than our casual washing of hands before going to the table.
Jesus does not disregard the traditional practices of his ancestors especially if such traditions give expression to the commandments of God. The Pharisees and scribes are considered guardians of Jewish religious tradition. They are experts at instituting and adhering to regulations. Thus, they are considered the vanguard of Jewish faith and model of holiness.
Jesus speaks boldly against these religious leaders, enjoining people to surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees if they wish to enter the Kingdom of heaven. As a group, these leaders are more preoccupied with externals than the purity of their hearts.
“From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt 12:34).
Gospel • MATTHEW 15:1-2, 10-14
Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.” He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” Then his disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.
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