Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(I Kings 8:22-23.27-30; Mark 7:1-13)
A priest sometimes greeted parishioners coming to mass with a coffee cup in his hand. When the people asked him about fasting for one hour before Communion, the priest became defensive. He said that the fast was man’s law, not God’s, and that humans may suspend it. Is this what Jesus is telling the Pharisees in today’s gospel?
The Pharisees followed the tradition of the elders which served a legitimate purpose. Dietary customs were followed so that the sacred law would never be violated. Jesus is not directing himself to the customs but to the cynicism of the Pharisees. They criticize a divergence from custom on part of Jesus’ disciples (not Jesus himself) while failing to keep a commandment. It is like someone forgetting to say “thank you” being condemned by another who embezzles thousands.
So what should we conclude about that priest? The Church imposes the fast before Holy Communion to promote conscientious reception of the sacrament. It may be dispensed in an urgent situation. However, the Church’s authority to instruct what is proper should be regularly heeded.