A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The commandments of men

Our Lord's criticism of the Pharisees' rituals and traditions in today's Gospel (Mark 7:1-13) is sometimes directed by commentators at Christians who are "High Church" and piled high with rituals, traditions and other accretions.

Of course, our Lord's criticism can also be directed at Christians who are "Low Church," whose rituals, traditions, and other accretions may be more subtle, yet still problematic.

Whether we are "High Church" or "Low Church" or "No Church," today's Gospel reminds us first of all to be continually diligent in remaining true to the fundamentals and the source of our faith in Christ.

In fact, if today's Gospel is seen primarily in a "High Church" vs. "Low Church" context, we run the risk of missing one of the most critical dangers facing Christians today.

The most insidious Pharisaism today is to be found not in the "high smells and bells" of some Churches or in the alleged fundamentalism of others.

The most insidious Pharisaism today is to be found in today's modern culture -- most especially where there is still a veneer of Christianity.

He answered and said unto them,
Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites,
as it is written,
This people honoureth me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me.

Howbeit in vain do they worship me,
teaching for doctrines
the commandments of men.

We see this most especially in politicians and preachers and even ordinary people who reduce the entire deposit of faith to a single concept - "love" or "being nice" or "strict justice" or "concern for the poor" or "old-fashioned morality" or something else -- and who then retranslate that concept in accordance with "the commandments of men": mere human precepts such as political correctness, the "modern" point of view, nostalgia, the latest scientific study, what feels good, etc.

That is not to say that there is necessarily anything wrong with love, being nice, strict justice, concern for the poor, old-fashioned morality, nostalgia, science, or any of those things in themselves.

But this Gospel reminds us that we must continually make sure that we are always rooted in truth - the truth that comes from God.

High Church or Low Church, liberal or conservative, it is too easy for us to drift and to find ourselves based more on the commandments, traditions and conventional wisdom of men rather than the true wisdom and revelation of God.

Shew me thy ways, O LORD;
teach me thy paths.
Lead me in thy truth, and teach me:
for thou art the God of my salvation;
on thee do I wait all the day.

Psalm 25:4-5