Traditions of Men…
It does not matter what we do outwardly; what matters is in our hearts:
Now when the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around (Jesus), they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands… So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” -Mark 7:1-8, NAB
The Pharisees had fallen in to the trap of rituals and routines, and they felt justified by their ability to follow these traditions. Yet, their hearts were stone. They may have followed their ritualistic traditions well, but they lost sight of their purpose – to serve and please God.
Our own Catholic rituals and traditions, primarily through the Sacraments, can quickly become routine. We go to Mass without much thought. We partake in the Eucharist without truly being open to God’s grace. We attend confession to meet our yearly obligation. But, what good is any of it, if our hearts are not in it?
The Sacraments are a blessing in our lives and a gift from God. They are more than obligations and precepts set by the Catholic Church. Precepts were set to help guide us to a regular practice of our faith. They were set as the minimal standard that we should follow; however, simply following these basic rules is not the key to a solid faith – but, they can be the foundation.
Practicing our faith should be the highlight of our week and the purpose of our lives. Also, the desire to participate in the Sacraments must come from the heart, not some legalistic adherence to the law. Confession, the Eucharist, and the other Sacraments are an outward sign of our love for God, not just a ritualistic tradition.
As you approach the altar at Mass this week, take time to focus on what really matters. When you step into the confessional, go with a pure heart. When you participate more fully in the Sacraments, you will be amazed at the healing, grace, and love that comes pouring out from God. The Sacraments are what defines our faith and the greatest part of being Catholic.