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22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Aug.

30, 2015
(Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8, 1415, 21-23)
Whenever nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court are vetted by the
Senate, the question is always asked about whether the nominee
intends to uphold what the Founding Fathers meant when they
fashioned the Constitution. We can easily see what they wrote, but its
not always so easy to understand what they meant.
Deuteronomy was written at least 500 years after the time of
Moses, yet Moses is the speaker throughout the book. The intervening
history between the time of the historical Moses and the time when
Deuteronomy was written was complicated and vastly different from
the time Moses roamed through the Sinai Peninsula with the group of
former slaves.
Deuteronomy is presented as kind of a last will and testament of
Moses before his death. He is reviewing the slate of all the Law that
had been established by the Lord. It anticipates the taking of the land,
which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Their
greatness as a nation is based on the belief that their God lives in the
midst of them, and has given them the statutes and decrees of the Law
as a testimony to the nations around them of their closeness to the
Lord, whose will they obey.
All of this had already happened by the time Deuteronomy is
written, so the book actually reflects the period of the seventh century
BC, rather than the twelfth century BC when the historical Exodus is
commonly understood to have happened. The meaning and application
of these words affected Deuteronomys present, not Israels past. The
reality was the northern kingdom (Israel) had been destroyed by the
Assyrians, and many priests and other exiles fled to the southern
kingdom (Judah). Deuteronomy reminds one and all that the statutes
and decrees of the Law are meant to be observed, lest that same thing
befall the south that had already seen the destruction of the north. The

law that is being set before them today is the Law as it had
developed over the five centuries since they had fled Egypt.
The Pharisees and scribes are the favorite whipping boys of the
Gospels, even though Jesus shared many of the Pharisees views. The
issue in Sundays Gospel is what constitutes law and what constitutes
interpretation of law. Jesus objects to the traditions of the elders, as
being considered equivalent to law. He defends his disciples on this
distinction. How they observed his disciples eating meals with
unwashed hands we are not told.
Mark adds the instruction about what all Jews do for readers
unfamiliar with these customs. One is reminded of some of the
liturgical rituals which are sometimes considered and observed as
equivalent to Law. There is virtually no difference between the critique
Jesus renders against the purification of cups, jugs and kettles and
some of the more bizarre liturgical legislation that periodically arises.
However, given the wide-spread Essene movement of the time,
whose members had vigorous laws of purification as part of the groups
traditions, it is not hard to suppose that some Pharisees and others had
latched on to those customs as a sign of their superior status as
practicing religious Jews. When they saw Jesus disciples ignoring
such customs they go after the teacher.
Jesus quotes Isaiah to properly distinguish between talk and
action. Disregarding Gods commandment in favor of human tradition
is the height of hypocrisy. Jesus gives an example of this in the full
text, but it has been edited out of this Gospel for Sunday. The focus
instead is on all the evils which come from within people which
actually defile them. Many scholars argue that the list was the work of
the early church.
Fr. Lawrence Hummer