Today Jesus is getting ganged up on a little bit by the scribes and Pharisees, so let's understand the opponents. The scribes were the scholars, they were the kind of people who could quote Jewish law by chapter and verse. The Pharisees were a renewal movement within Israel, and they wanted to restore God's favor to Israel through strict observance of God's law. According to the Pharisees' way of thinking, Israel had lost God's favor by being disobedient to the law, and all Israel's problems could be explained this way, especially the occupation by the Romans. So, they thought, in order to regain God's favor they needed to be strictly observant to God's law. And just to be safe, they had started to go above and beyond God's law, just to make sure they'd covered all their bases. So, God's law had stipulated ritual cleansing for priests offering sacrifice at the temple, but the Pharisees' oral tradition had extended ritual cleansing to every Jew at every meal so that every meal had a sacrificial element, and just to make sure God was happy.
So the Pharisees notice Jesus's disciples not observing ritual cleansing and this upsets them, not just because they like everybody to do fancy ceremonies, but because they think that without ritual observance they can never be restored to God's good grace. Their intention is good, but their critical mistake is that they disconnected ritual purity from purity of the heart. They disconnected their external actions from their internal disposition, and they focused only on external action.
|Only his grinchy attitude is condemned, not his movie|
Now, sometimes this line is used against Catholics by Protestants who misunderstand the importance of Tradition rather than just focusing on Scripture or who don't like Catholic devotional practices like the Rosary. But I hope you can explain to them, and I hope you understand yourself, that Jesus condemns here merely human traditions, and even then only at the expense of God's commandments. So Jesus obviously doesn't condemn all human traditions, like my family's tradition of watching the Grinch (animated, not live action) every Christmas season, or eating peanuts and cracker jacks at a baseball game. Jesus doesn't condemn that. Nor does he condemn our adherence to papal authority or our love of the Rosary, because they aren't merely human traditions. They spring from Scripture, which itself came from Apostolic Tradition.
|I'm fairly sure Jesus is a baseball fan|
If that's why you come to church, simply because that's what you've always done and your heart isn't really in it, God can work with that. God is generous. We want to get to a point where we're going to church out of a deep and meaningful love of God. Really, we don't want to be just going to church at all, because that's just an external action. We want to come and know that we are contributing our part to a meaningful relationship in our lives.
Ok, let me say that again. Just going to church is an external action, "this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." In everything we do, starting with the attitude with which we go to Church, we need to make sure that the disposition of our hearts honors God, not just the things we do externally.
|This man: not offering sacrifice|
So consider well why you come to Mass and why you bother with the life of faith at all. Don't just come because that's what you've always done. Come to unite your sacrifice and your sufferings to those of Jesus here on the altar. By doing that, you can unite your external action and your internal disposition. As our actions and our hearts become more in line with each other and with Christ, that prepares us for eternal life.