Reflection on 22nd Sunday: 29th August 2021

Wisdom Tradition

In the film ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, the main character Tevye says, “Because of our Tradition everyone knows who we are meant to be and what God expects us to do. Without Tradition our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof. Tradition helps us keep our balance.”

While this is true, it is not true of Tevye’s initial understanding of the word ‘Tradition’ which undergoes a major shift as the plot unfolds. His daughters lead him to eventually conclude that there is an aspect of life that is stronger than their traditions: love. “Love is the new style,” he says. ‘This love is not a warm and fuzzy feeling, but it is the animating force that holds us together.’

Dr. Barbara Holmes

‘Many spiritual writers speak about Perennial Tradition or Perennial Wisdom. The Perennial Tradition points to recurring themes and truths within all of the world’s religions. Religious traditions can hide God as well as reveal God. At their most mature level, religions cultivate in their followers a deeper union with God, with each other, and with reality. At their immature levels, religions can be obsessed with the differences that make them better or more right than others.’1 ‘Perennial Tradition or Wisdom teaching focuses on the necessity of our transformation starting from the inside out. Often our lives are so imbalanced that it is hard to walk this transformative path. Wisdom teaching is never a one-size-fits all approach. A Wisdom teacher is always looking for our ‘stuck’ point. What is it that is preventing our growth?’2 Do we want to be right or do we want to be in right relationship? Do we want to be correct or do we want to be connected?1

“This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.” “I will remove their heart of stone. A new heart will I give them.” (Ezekiel) ‘Jesus came as an awakener of the heart. Cynthia Bourgeault describes Jesus as ‘the master cardiologist’. The head is a great tool for reading the quantitative universe but when that runs the show we end up thinking that the goal of life is in accumulating and box-ticking and the world becomes a series of objects. The heart is the organ of perception that reads the qualitative universe, that reads the realm of beauty, truth, joy and peace. When we move through the world in our heart, the world becomes a temple of presences.’2 We then know who we are meant to be:
‘My deepest me is God.’3

[1] Richard Rohr [2] Matthew Wright [3] St Catherine of Genoa.

Gospel Mark 7 1-8,14-15,21-23

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow’, and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances concerning the washing of cups, pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him “Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?” He answered, “It was of you hypocrites that lsaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture: This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations, You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.” He called the people to him again and said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency envy, slander pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.”