In Ordinary Time, the second reading usually does not relate to the other readings since it is semi-continuous, proclaimed from one chapter to the next over a course of weeks. On this Sunday, however, the second reading from James gives us a wonderful lens through which to understand the law-heavy passage from Mark.
Concerned that his disciples have neglected some of the Jewish religious traditions, the Pharisees question Jesus. And he immediately calls them hypocrites! Why? Is Jesus throwing out religious law or letting his disciples slide? Hardly. He’s calling them (and us) to true observance of it.Religious practice that is pure does two things. First, it calls us to care for those most in need. Second, it stands as witness and invitation to others to do the same. Click To Tweet
Here, we need to look up the Marcan verses omitted from the lectionary pericope. In verses 9 to 13, Jesus calls out these Pharisees for picking and choosing which laws to follow. And worse, he says they have nullified God’s law by distorting religious practices for their own gain.
Here’s where James helps us understand Jesus’s message. Religious practice that is pure does two things. First, it calls us to care for those most in need. Second, it stands as witness and invitation to others to do the same. Religious piety and practice that becomes about anything else makes us not only hypocrites but idolaters who honor the law but despise God’s own. Even in the hearts of people of faith, evil can still reside.