Homily of St Jerome on Matthew 15:1-20 [ Mark 7:1-13 ]
The foolishness of the Scribes and Pharisees is amazing. They rebuke the Son of God because he does not keep the precepts and traditions of men: “For your disciples,” they say, “wash not their hands when they eat bread.” It is the hands, that is, the works not of the body in itself, but of the soul, that are to be washed, that the word of God may be fulfilled in them. He answering said to them: “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God in deference to your tradition?” He refutes the false charge by a true answer: “While you neglect the commandments of God,” he says, “on account of the tradition of men, why do you think my disciples are to be rebuked because they attach little weight to the ordinances of the ancients, so that they may fulfil the statues of God?”
God’s are the statues of works of love
For God said: “Honour thy father and mother”; and, “Let him who curses father and mother be put to death.” But you say: “Whosoever shall say to father and mother: ‘Any support you might have had from me is dedicated to God,’ does not have to honour his father or mother.” Honour in the Scriptures is not so much to be understood as greetings, as of almsdeeds and the offering of gifts. “Honour widows,” says the Apostle, “that are widows indeed.” By honour, here, is to be understood a gift. And in another place: “Priests are to be honoured with a double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine of God.” And by this command we are ordered not to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn, for the labourer is worthy of his hire.
The Lord has commanded that sons, out of consideration for the weakness or old age or the poverty of their parents, should honour them, even in supplying them with the necessities of life.
How the Pharisees and scribes changed God’s law of loving support of needy parents
But the Scribes and Pharisees sought to overrule this most prudent law of God, and to encourage impiety under the name of piety.
They taught undutiful sons that if they would vow to God, who is indeed their Father, the things that they should rightly bestow on their parents, the one oblation made to the Lord above the gifts supplied to parents. And indeed the parents themselves [said the Pharisees and Scribes], seeing that their gifts are dedicated to God, should refuse them lest they should incur the crime of sacrilege.
And so they are brought to suffer want. So it came about that the gifts offered by the sons in honour of God and to his temple went to the profit of the [Old Covenant Jewish priests instead of their needy parents.]
– St Jerome, Bk. 2, Commentary on Matthew, Ch. 15; from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964