Rules and Traditions
Opening Question: What is your favorite sport? If you could change a rule to make the game more fair, what rule would you change? Why?
First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8
George and John were best friends. They were the same age, went to the same school, and many years were in the same class together. They visited each other constantly. They thought alike and acted alike. Many people thought they were brothers.
When it came to soccer, however, they were as different as night and day. George played for fun and always tried to respect the players on the opposite team. John, however, just wanted to win at any cost!
This year, George was on the Golden Soccers' team, while John was on the Pyros' team. George's coach stressed playing as a team, while John's coach stressed tricks to win. On the first day of the season, the Golden Soccers played the Pyros. In the second half, George played forward while John was a defender. George broke away with the ball and ran toward the Pyros' goal. As he set up for the shot, John slid-tackled George. George flipped over on his head and landed with a loud thump. The referee yelled: "Play on!" But George laid there in pain. Finally, play was stopped and the coach helped George off the field. As he was limping off, George turned and saw the Pyros' coach smile at John and gave him a "thumbs-up."
Interaction questions: John played within the rules, but did he play fair? Did he do the right thing? How did George feel when he was John's coach give him the "thumbs up?"
We have rules at home, in school, and at play. Did you know God gave us rules? Unlike other rules, God's rules help us to respect others. When we respect others, we act wisely and fairly; when we respect other people, they will say we act in a just way.
Bridging Questions: Do you have little habits, things you do all the time that help through the day? Do you get frustrated and angry when someone upsets your habits? Explain.
Gospel: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
The Pharisees and some of the scribes from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. They had seen some of his followers eat their meal without washing their hands and praying. In the eyes of these leaders, this was a sin. Like their ancestors, all the Jews, especially the Pharisees, won't eat unless they wash their hands and pray. In the same way, if they return from shopping, they won't eat unless they wash and pray. They practice many other rituals, like the prayerful washing of cups, pitchers, and copper pans. With this in mind, the Pharisees and scribes put the question before Jesus: "Why don't your followers honor way of our ancestors? Why do they sin? Why do they eat without washing?"
"Isaiah hit the bull's-eye about you hypocrites," Jesus said, "when he wrote:
The people say nice things about me,
But their hearts are so far from me.
They worship me without getting any closer to me,
for they tell others that their rules are what I teach.
You've given up on God's Law. You just hold onto your own traditions."
Then Jesus called out to the crowd, "Everyone! Listen and understand! There is nothing that someone eats to make him a sinner. The things that come out of the evil heart and make someone a sinner."
"But that's the way we've always done it!" Jerry screamed. "Mom! Linda sitting in my place!"
"Just because we've done it in the past doesn't mean we should do it in the future," Linda responded just in time for her mom to hear.
Do you have a special place at your dining room table? Jerry's and Linda's family did. Their dad sat and at the end of the table toward the window. Their mom sat at the opposite end toward the kitchen door. Linda sat on the side toward the television, while Jerry sat toward the stairs. Everyone had a place. Everyone knew what to do when they sat down for dinner. But now there was an argument.
"Sit down in your place," their mom said to Linda. Mom sighed, frustrated from the drive home, the bills she was thinking about, and the rush to get dinner ready. She didn't need another problem. She had enough problems for the day.
"But, mom!" Linda objected. A cold stare from her mom told Linda this was not the time push the subject of seating traditions.
Suddenly, their dad walked in the door. He walked over, kissed their mom, and asked how her day was. This was the same thing he did every work day. A frustrated look from her told dad this was not a good time to ask. There would be time after dinner to talk.
Everyone sat down for dinner. After grace, Linda grabbed the rice, loaded her plate, and passed the rice to her dad, that is to the left.
"Why are you passing me the rice?" her dad asked. "You know we pass to the right. Are you trying to mess up they way things are done?"
Linda smiled. "Dad," she said, "earlier I wanted to sit in Jerry's seat just once, just to see what he saw when we eat. Mom yelled at me. I wanted to pass the rice to you, just to see what would happen if past food to the left. What would happen if we changed a few things around here? Would things improve?"
"It's just the way we do things!" Jerry shouted back.
"So," their dad said to Jerry, "you like tradition, the way we always do things?"
"Eh..., yeah. I like tradition," Jerry said.
"And, Linda. You like to change things just to see what would happen?" their dad said.
"Yeah!" Linda said. "I don't like tradition."
"Why do we have traditions, like places at table and the way we pass food?" their mom interrupted. Their was silence at the table. Both parents were waiting to see way the kids would answer.
"To help others," Linda said. She was as surprised at what she said as her parents.
"And why do we change traditions?" their dad asked.
Linda had answered, so all eyes were on Jerry. There was silence for a moment. Then Jerry said in a low, mumbling voice, "To help people."
The conversation continued at the table on traditions and ways to help people. They all agreed that if they changed a tradition, they would do it to help each other. And they agreed if they didn't have a good reason for a tradition, they would change it.
Jesus liked traditions, if they helped others. But, he rejected other traditions if they hurt people. Some of the Pharisees used traditions to control people. They liked to think these traditions came from God. And if they came from God, anyone who broke these traditions sinned.
Jesus would have nothing of that thinking. Simply doing things the way they were always done does not make someone good. And doing things differently did not make someone bad. Doing good things with a loving heart makes people good.
Having habits, traditions, help us. And that's good. But let's not confuse habits with the good that comes from our hearts. That kind of goodness pleases God.
Closing Questions: The habit of doing good for others is called virtue. What kinds of habits are virtues? How can we develop these virtues?