Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tradition vs. traditions

Tradition is a wonderful thing. In fact, we as Catholics believe that Tradition and Sacred Scripture are both tools of Divine Revelation, meaning that God reveals Himself to us through both the Bible and the Tradition that is formally passed down through the Church.
human traditions, however, are another thing. It was obviously an issue that caused some consternation among the scribes and Pharisees, as can be seen in today's Gospel (Mark 7: 1-13). The problem came when they put their traditions above God's commandments. It was as if they were putting themselves in God's position of authority.
We have remnants of this today. How many times do you hear people say "We've always done it this way", as if that in itself is reason and justification for anything. We have seen this kind of attitude regarding the Mass, for example. Some people complain that the Mass should only be celebrated in Latin, as if Jesus Himself spoke that language at the Last Supper. Others complain that we should not now change the words from the English translation used today to the new translation that will be used starting in Advent of this year, as if different English words are a betrayal of Vatican Council II.. Both would hope to rely on past usage and practice to establish some sort of claim to unbending adherence. In other words, these past traditions come to be the overriding basis for what we do in the present and what we can do in the future.
As Catholics, we believe that the Church, through the pope and bishops, is the only authentic interpreter of Tradition. When we disregard God's law in favor of our own traditions, we are really trying to put ourselves in God's place. Today's First Reading speaks of God creating human being in His image and likeness, and He saw that it was very good. But being made in the image of God does not mean we are God. and our traditions certainly cannot supplant God's law as contained in Scripture and authentically interpreted for us by the Church. Tradition (capital T) can never be superseded by traditions (small t).

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