Week 18: Tuesday

“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash [their] hands when they eat a meal.” (Matthew 15:2.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s Gospel, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“Now consider with me how they are convicted even by the very act of asking the question. For they do not say, “Why do they transgress the law of Moses?” Instead they say, “Why do they transgress the tradition of the elders?” From this it is clear that the priests were instituting many new practices, even though Moses with great fear and with dreadful words had commanded that one should neither add nor take away anything. For he says, “Do not add to this word that I am commanding you today, and do not take away from it.” But this did not at all stop them from instituting new practices. The issue here provides an example: eating with unwashed hands, which they thought unlawful. They focused inordinately on the outward rites of washing cups and things made of bronze and the rules for washing themselves. By this time they should have been released from needless observances. God’s timing had moved forward to that point. But just at that point they bound people up with many more observances. Why did they turn things upside down? Because they were afraid that someone might take away their power. They wanted others to be more afraid of them. They themselves had become the lawgivers. The issue of transgressing the traditions of the elders had gotten so inverted that they were insisting that their own commandments be kept even if God’s commandment was violated. They exercised so much obsessive control that the issue finally became a matter of formal legal accusation. But the indictment would instead fall against them in two ways. They themselves were instituting new practices and were devising punishments in regard to their own observances while placing no value on those instituted by God. ” (The Gospel of Matthew: Homily, 51.)

Draw near to Your servants, O Lord,
and answer their prayers with unceasing kindness,
that, for those who glory in
You as their Creator and guide,
You may restore what You have created
and keep safe what You have restored.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen