A friend describes the years from our mid-thirties to probably our early 60’s as ‘the sandwich years’: the responsibility of caring for the needs of a growing family on one side and oftentimes those of increasingly elderly and possibly frail parents on the other. Sometimes trying to balance schedules, appointments, bills, the humdrum of ordinary daily life and the expectations of others can make us seem unduly rigid, stuck in the mud of routine, with a host of good reasons why children (and grandparents) ought obey the rules!
Except, just as with the pharisees, that is often an unfair characterisation. The Pharisees were good, religious people caught up in events outside their control. St. Mark’s Gospel presents two different approaches to make sense of life after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans.
On the one hand, the Pharisees attempted to establish order in the disorder by transferring the rituals of the Temple-priests into daily life. It might be perceived, in effect, as a snub to the occupying power: you may destroy what is sacred to us, but you cannot stop us from making sacred our daily actions!
Jesus’ response, on the other hand, isn’t to outright dismiss the Pharisees’ practice, but to ask how our daily work, our routines, our relationships do justice to God’s commandments to love and care for the most vulnerable.
When it comes to the inner intentions and motivations deep within our hearts, each one of us is a mixed bag. All of us struggle with conflicting motives that are rarely completely pure. Often even the most admirable things we do are done partly for show or to receive accolades from others. And therein, lies our need to remember we in a process of conversion, on a journey of the heart.
Whether we be in the dawn or dusk of life, or the sandwich years in between, we all of us pray for the grace of Christ to transform these hearts of stone into the enfleshed hearts of truly loving people.