The Pharisees and Scribes cried out, "Why do your disciples not follow the traditions of our ancestors, but instead take food without purifying their hands?" (Gospel).
A mother tells her children “Put your toys and games away, turn off the TV and close your books. Get to your rooms and put on your PJ’s”
-“Because it’s time to go to bed.”
-“Because you need a good night’s sleep.”
- “Because I said so!”
The final analysis of going to bed, is not because Mom spoke the final word, but in those final words were inferred that if you love me, you will do what I ask you to do. Now here is the difference between good behavior and bad behavior.
In matters of faith we find a similar situation. Many people abandon religion or a church. Here in America, there is a lessening of conviction to the place of faith in the American culture. Why? Because of bad religion! Bad religion is when you observe sacred laws for their own sake. Good religion is when you follow a discipline because of your love for God. External discipline is good only to the degree in which it empowers inner discipline. Many leave the faith not because of the demands of faith as they might claim, but because of lack of deep inner discipline.
As the people were on the way to the Promised Land, they began to lack discipline. God gave the Ten Commandments through Moses to help the people keep a certain inner closeness with their Creator and God and with each other. Inner discipline was important to maintain the proper relationship with God. The spiritual leaders, the Priests, Pharisees and Scribes continued to issue disciplinary guidelines to help the People of God keep close to their faith in the Lord as they entered foreign lands and walked among the pagan gods of foreigners.
So, today, those Pharisees and Scribes want to know why the disciples to not observe the law of cleaning their hands before they eat. Suddenly they have become more interested in the external ritual and law than the inner disposition of receiving God’s gifts. James tells us that true undefiled religion is manifested in the way we take care of the children and the widows, life at its beginning and life at its end. Loving and serving life at all moments is the sign of a true disciple of the Lord. True faith is a matter of respect, support, care and service to all facets of life among us. When people ask why we must respect life in the womb, life in the aged, life in the poor, life in the need, the answer is simple: because it is the will of God.
Jesus quotes Isaiah when he says: “People honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.” Then he explains that it is not the external law that perfects people, but the true inner discipline: “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.”
THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW:
The purpose of the Law is to keep the inner discipline in check and to hold us within the boundaries of love. Paul reminds us that love is the fulfillment of the Law. In the third century, St. Irenaeus tells us that the tendency of false teachings is to mix water with the wine, to give false interpretation to the Law by allowing human desire to corrode the purpose of the Law. When we silence the freedom to express true inner discipline of faith, we water down the purity of the human souls and open the gates to the floods of human corruption.
Segregation entered the established community of Christ’s disciples and God’s holy people when church law restricted undisciplined desires and demanded purity of heart, mind, intention and action. History shows us that plurality in the church entered through a desire to change the Law so as to falsify freedom and so reject the way of Divine Love in creation. Throughout history, the pharisaical mark is left in those who would make gods out of laws while forsaking the Law of God, the Law of Love. This is a true watering down of the wine of holiness offered to mankind by the giver of the Law.
Today we spend more time dissecting, corroding and transforming the law to fit our disciplines then we do fitting our heart’s desire to fulfilling the will of God our Father. Like children we continue to ask why.
Over the years of spiritual counseling, I increasingly found it necessary to advise searching souls not to ask WHY but HOW. How can we best fulfill the Law of God. How can we find that inner discipline which is based on Love. The final answer will come to those who honestly seek God as the source and object of their inner life.
When seeking the proper law we must live by and vote for, we should first ask ourselves what God requires of us and how we are best to carry out the Christian vocation in our lives. We need teh freedom to live by our inner discipline. Many will come asking us abide by a law that allows undisciplined spirits in service to human selfishness. But for those who follow the Lord, law must echo the love of a servant heart.
The final answer to today’s WHY demanded by the Pharisees of our day can be found in our psalm response: “the one who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” It is a disciplined heart that will give meaning to the Law of God on a people, for it is what comes from within that defiles. The final suggestion of the Letter sent by James today is: "Humbly welcome the word that is planted in you [the natural law of God] and is able to save your soul."