For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.
Lord, let your love come upon me,
the saving help of your promise.
Do not take the word of truth from my mouth
for I trust in your decrees. (R./)
I shall always keep your law
for ever and ever.
I shall walk in the path of freedom
for I see your precepts. (R./)
Your commands have been my delight;
these I have loved.
I will worship your commands and love them
and ponder your statutes. (R./)
While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
"Faith" in Saint Paul's sense is closely linked to fidelity. The law of the flesh (disorder and hatreds) must give way to the law of the spirit (harmony and love.) We are freed from regulations about circumcision and legal cleanliness, clean and unclean foods, so as to follow the more inward law of the spirit, love and faithfulness and self control.
Jesus sets the bar of generosity very high when he says, "Give what you have as alms." Then, he promises, "all will be wiped clean for you." Here's is a curious thought about cleanliness. Day labourers and manual workers are more challenged by hygiene than wealthy people of leisure. Poor people often work longer hours and may not have easy access to running water and privacy. Could this be why Jesus had not washed his hands before the meal in the Pharisee's house?
We know from experience how people have differing priorities. What motivates me may seem trivial to someone else. We can get upset when something we regard as important is not taken seriously by someone near to us. The ritual of washing in a certain way before meals was clearly of more importance to his host than it was to Jesus. The had differing priorities. Rituals like washings mattered less to him than the values and attitudes in our hearts. He turns to conversation to another Jewish practice, almsgiving, the willingness to give to those in need. Rather than some version of "Cleanliness is next to godliness," he is implying that what matters most is love.
Perhaps what we think vital is not necessarily so. What we seek is not always what Christ values. We must let him mould us more than we do, if we are to "put on the mind of Christ." We pray that our priorities may reflect the Lord's own priorities.