Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time - Year B
We are at the point in Mark's Gospel about Jesus where things are getting pretty tensed. Up to this point, Jesus has already been challenged by the Pharisees on issues that concern fasting , sabbath, forgiveness of sins and his power to cast out demons. In the midst of all these, Jesus still continues with his mission of healing.
Still riding on this wave of popular acclaim, Jesus faces opposition when the Pharisees and the Scribes question why his disciples do not live according to the tradition of the elders by eating with defiled hands.
Jesus reply to them is: "This people honours me with their lips but their heart is far from me, in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the precepts of men."
With this answer, there is more going on here than meets the eye as long as their hearts are far from God, meaning that as much as they object to the disciples eating with unclean hands, they too, that is, the Pharisees, are guilty of striving to be good to the point of forgetting to take care of their hearts. They are too concerned with what others do and thus lack concern for the good of their own hearts.
By answering them, Jesus does not simply evade the issue they have raised but issues a challenge to his hearers that reverberate through the ages into our lives. We can relate the reply of Jesus with the First Reading of today by looking into these words: "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness and let them have dominion over all creatures." Whose image? Whose likeness?
We bear God's likeness and are therefore made to be more than we sometimes realise, and because we bear God's likeness we are to act like God and not like gods, those who lord their authority over others for the sake of self-righteousness.
The image of God is the image of One who creates, sustains, nurtures, redeems and saves no matter the cost.
Is it possible that in our endeavour to practice our religion in church and out of the church, we end up with the image of empty worship practices and with the image of clinging to the exaggeration of the law, and with the image of making the law become the end and not the means.
The opportunity before us today is to come back to our primary identity as God's children and stewards, as those made in the likeness of God and charged to act like the God we see in Jesus. In Jesus we see the image of God who is more concerned with the pure intentions of our hearts because our hearts shape our behaviour, urging and aiding us to live in the image and likeness of God.