Daily Devotional for January 28

January 28                                                           Mark 7:1-23


A monastery's abbot had a cat that roamed the chapel during
prayer. So the abbot tied the cat to a peg to prevent the monks
from being distracted. When the abbot died, the practice
continued. When the cat died, a new abbot purchased a new
cat and tied it likewise. Eventually no one remembered why
the cat was tied. Though it had lost its original purpose and
meaning, the monks kept the tradition alive.


Rituals are a deep part of both human and faith life. All religions
use symbols and signs (doctrines, practices, acts, objects) to
externalize internal beliefs and feelings about God and human
existence. The danger arises when the symbols and signs lose
their original purposes and become ends in themselves. There
is nothing inherently wrong with such practices as ritual meals
(Eucharist), purifications (baptism), or acts of intimacy (embrac-
ing, kissing, sex); the danger emerges when these practices do
not express authentically what they are meant to convey.


It is far easier to wash one's hands ritually than to clean one's
heart of impure thoughts such as envy, jealousy, bitterness,
or revenge. It is much easier to share in a ritual meal like
Communion than to commune with the unlovable, the
ungrateful, or the enemy. Jesus was the most authentic person
who ever lived. The outside and the inside were one. He
performed the prescribed rituals and prayed the required
prayers, but in a way that illuminated their true meaning. And
when they were empty and meaningless, he did not hesitate
to transform them, replace them, or discard them.


"Happy are the pure of heart" is a teaching of Jesus. I need
wisdom to be pure in heart. If my heart is pure, my lips will
be also. And the reverence I pay to God and others in words
and signs will be the most authentic kind of worship I can
render to God.

From The Road to Emmaus - An inclusive devotional Edited by Joseph W. Houle

Emmaus House of Prayer - Washington D.C

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