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God continues to provide instructions which will benefit both the physical health and the spiritual life of the people of Israel. Ceremonial washing, particularly after the discovery of an illness, was an important method of purification of the body and prefigured the water baptism we experience today.

Sacrifice in the Tabernacle and especially the ceremony involving laying the sin of Israel upon the head of a goat before sending the animal out into the wilderness foreshadowed the sacrifice Jesus would make on the cross at Calvary.

Over time, however, the Pharisees replaced God’s laws with their own traditions and rituals and when they comment that those who followed Jesus failed to wash their hands before eating food, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of being hypocrites!

Why? Jesus points out that the Pharisees obeyed a myriad of rules and regulations in order to be seen to uphold their own reputations and retain their privileged positions in society.

Jesus reminds them and us that it is not what we consume that matters, but what comes out of our hearts that is important. There is little point in attending Mass each Sunday and receiving Holy Communion if we do so whilst harbouring hatred against someone.

Man is defiled by his own thoughts, greed, lust, pride and much more, not simply by failing to conform to a ritual or obligation. Whilst this does not mean that we should neglect our obligation to attend Mass, we should do so in humility and in the knowledge that however good we think we are, we are still sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.

Scripture: Leviticus 15:1-16:28; Mark 7:1-23; Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 10:13-14