Today’s short Gospel contains the key passage in Matthew’s Gospel. Let me explain.
In the year 70 A.D the Romans destroyed Jerusalem’s and everyone living in the city. But first, they spared the Pharisees who has always been loyal to Rome.
The Pharisees, along with their families, made their way over to the town of Jamnia on the Mediterranean coast, where they began writing that holy Jewish book called the Talmud. When they heard that the temple had been destroyed, the Pharisees underwent an identity crisis. They had always thought of themselves as a temple people, so with the temple gone, they had lost the core to what made them Jewish.
Then, they decided that what really made them Jewish wasn’t the temple, but it was their keeping kosher. It was their avoiding pork and shellfish, and their avoiding all Gentiles who ate those unclean foods.
By the year 75 A.D. there were about fifty thousand Christians, but almost all of them were still devout Jews who observed kosher. The only thing making them different from other Jews was that as Christians they sat down and ate with Gentile Christians who did not keep kosher.
The Pharisees at Jamnia began telling all Christian Jews that they were no longer really Jewish, because they ate with unclean people. What was more, those Pharisees began saying that Jesus, because he had sat and ate with unclean people, had been an enemy of their religion, one who set out to destroy the Law and the Prophets.
It was that accusation that brought St. Matthew to write his Gospel. He quoted Jesus as saying, “I did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. Rather, I came to fulfill them.” Then, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew went on to quote Jesus explaining how with one Commandment after another, Jesus fulfilled the Law. “You have heard it said, ‘you must not kill, but I say you shall not be angry.’”
(St. Mark, in Chapter Seven of his Gospel went on to quote Jesus as saying it was not what went into our mouths that make us unclean, rather it is what comes out of them that shows us to be unclean.)