Their hearts are far from me

Today’s First Reading describes how God, through Moses, gave the Law to the people of Israel. God’s Law was a gift to the chosen people; as Moses said, it gave them wisdom and understanding, and made them a great nation. But by the time of Jesus, the Law had become a cause of controversy. The Pharisees followed a strict interpretation, adding more and more rules about washing hands and cups, pots and dishes. The Law, as interpreted by the Pharisees, became so complicated and demanding that it was almost impossible for ordinary working people to keep it.

Jesus accuses the Pharisees of hypocrisy. Their observance of God’s Law is all about outward appearances, and they look down on those who cannot meet their demands. Jesus wants his disciples, instead, to give their hearts to God. If our hearts are given to God, there will be no room for evil thoughts or actions. But the hearts of the Pharisees, he says, are far from God. They honour God only with lip service.

Jesus’ words are a challenge for us, as much as for the Pharisees. What is in our hearts?

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