Matthew Chapter 15
God¡¯s command and human tradition

1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus. And they said to him,

2 ¡°Why don¡¯t your disciples follow the tradition of the elders? In fact, they don¡¯t wash their hands before eating.¡±

3 Jesus answered, ¡°And you, why do you break God¡¯s command for the sake of your traditions?

4 For God commanded: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and: whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death.

5 But you say that anyone may say to his father or mother: ¡®What you could have expected from me, I have reserved for the Temple.¡¯

6 In this case, according to you, a person is freed of his duty to his father and mo ther. And so, you have nullified the command of God for the sake of your traditions.

7 Hypocrites! Isaiah rightly prophesied of you when he said:

8 This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

9 The worship they offer me is worthless, for they only teach human rules.¡±

Washing hands and cleanness of heart

10 Jesus then called the people near him and said to them, ¡°Listen and understand:

11 what enters into the mouth does not make a person unclean, what defiles one is what comes out of his mouth.¡±

12 After a while the disciples gathered around Jesus and said, ¡°Do you know that the Pharisees were offended by what you said?¡±

13 Jesus an swered, ¡°Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be uprooted.

14 Pay no attention to them! They are blind leading the blind. When a blind person leads another, the two will fall into a pit.¡±

15 Peter said to him, ¡°Explain this sentence to us.¡±

16 Jesus replied, ¡°So even you, too, are dull?

17 Do you not see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach, and then out of the body?

18 But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and that is what makes a person unclean.

19 Indeed, it is from the heart that evil desires come ¨C murder, adultery, immorality, theft, lies, slander.

20 These are the things that make a person unclean; but eating without washing the hands does not make a person un clean.¡±

The faith of the Canaanite woman

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

22 Now a Canaanite woman came from those borders and began to cry out, ¡°Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.¡±

23 But Jesus did not an swer her, not even a word. So his dis ciples approached him and said, ¡°Send her away: see how she is shouting after us.¡±

24 Then Jesus said to her, ¡°I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.¡±

25 But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus and said, ¡°Sir, help me!¡±

26 Jesus answered, ¡°It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to the little dogs.¡±

27 The woman replied, ¡°It is true, sir, but even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master¡¯s table.¡±

28 Then Jesus said, ¡°Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.¡± And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Second miracle of the loaves

29 From there Jesus went to the shore of Lake Galilee, and then went up into the hills where he sat down.

30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the dumb, the blind, the lame, the crippled, and many with other infirmities. The people carried them to the feet of Jesus, and he healed them.

31 All were astonished when they saw the dumb speaking, the lame walking, the crippled healed and the blind able to see; so they glorified the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples and said to them, ¡°I am filled with compassion for these people; they have already followed me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away fasting, or they may faint on the way.¡±

33 His disciples said to him, ¡°And where shall we find enough bread in this wilderness to feed such a crowd?¡±

34 Jesus said to them, ¡°How many loaves do you have?¡± They an swered, ¡°Seven, and a few small fish.¡±

35 So Jesus ordered the people to sit on the ground.

36 Then he took the seven loaves and the small fish and gave thanks to God. He broke them and gave them to his disciples, who distributed them to the peo ple.

37 They all ate and were satisfied, and the leftover broken pieces filled seven wicker baskets.

38 Four thousand men had eaten, besides women and children.

39 Then Jesus sent away the crowd, got into the boat and went to Mag dala.


Comments Mathew, Chapter 15

• 15.1 See commentary on Mark 7:1.

They don¡¯t wash their hands. The Pha risees uphold something that is excellent and which we ourselves practice. Jesus¡¯ vision, however, goes further: all these good customs and religious practices (feasts and meditations included) easily become a smoke screen, hiding the essential from us: a constant readiness to listen to God¡¯s call, a simple trust in his mercy which alone can save us.

• 10. See commentary on Mark 7:14.

Using only human criteria, human societies are not able to distinguish good from evil.

For the Jewish people, the worship of God was everything and they felt very much concerned about exactly who and what things were worthy of being part of this worship. Thus they made a distinction between the clean and the unclean. Jesus shows that true purity is that of the heart.

It could be that the code for correct behavior in our society and its numerous goodwill institutions be just a modern way of distinguishing the pure and the impure. In the Church itself, in past centuries, there has been a tendency to attribute to sacred ministers a ¡°purity¡± that reserved to them the handling of sacred things. It is one of the reasons why in the Middle Ages Communion was not given in the hand, as had been the custom for over ten centuries.

• 29. On two occasions Jesus multiplied bread. It is one of his miracles that most impresses us.

The word ¡°miracle¡± is often devalued. The Bible uses different words to denote what clearly appears as an act of God: sign, wonder, work of power. Miracle in its full meaning is all that at the same time: a sign by which God makes us dis cover his will or the invisible order of the world, a wonder that disconcerts our limited vision, a work which God alone is capable of doing.

The multiplication of loaves is the kind of miracle which most shocks our contemporaries and their absolute faith in the ¡°laws of nature¡± that God himself would not have the power to surpass, or which he could not ignore without contradicting himself. Many do not openly deny the testimony of the apostles, but they avoid taking any stand and say for example: ¡°The mira cle is still more beautiful if we imagine that Jesus merely invited the people to share their individual snacks, so that finally there was enough for everyone: a miracle of solidarity!¡±

Here the Gospel is not praising solidarity: it wishes rather to celebrate the absolute freedom of God and of Christ: nature itself must be silent, because here the dead are raised to life. For a Christian, creation is not a huge machine that God has passed on to people as he abdicated; it is a reflection of God where the laws ¨C shadows of the wisdom, the order and the justice that are in God ¨C never exclude his freedom.

Throughout all Christian history the Lord has multiplied and continues to multiply bread, items of food and even canned food for those who have given everything or risked all for him: many are able to witness to this.