In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the crowd that material items won't defile their souls; instead, we are only vulnerable to emotions and feelings that come from within. This parable follows a statement he makes to the Pharisees, reprimanding them for being so caught up in their rules and regulations that they have lost sight of their faith and love of the Lord. Because of this, they were missing why the commands had been instituted in the first place.
Looking at any religion, we see a number of rites and practices designed and instituted to help the participants grow in faith. It is very evident in our own Catholic faith. We go to Mass and Reconciliation, as well as fasting and almsgiving. Christ cautions us not to belittle these things. We can easily get caught up in passing judgment on who is or isn’t fulfilling the requirements of faith, but in doing this we become like the Pharisees. However, if we look at these requirements as tools of faith we can begin to understand their true purpose. Traditions in the church are more than just simple actions. They are practices used to guide our hearts and attitudes, making us more open to the Lord.
I know I often feel as if I am only, “going through the motions.” In these times, I leave Mass feeling no different from when I entered. However, when I take the time to recognize that each part of the service is designed to draw me in and place me closer to the Lord, then I can truly grow and take advantage of the grace he offers in the Eucharist. Then I can leave the church with the knowledge that God loves me and desires me to be close to him. The challenge left by the Gospel is to engage our faith. Allow the soul to connect with tradition, and faith will become as alive as the Garden of Eden. I pray that we can more fully understand our faith this week by permitting our traditions to focus our hearts on the Lord.