The Gospel according to Mark 7:14-23
Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Reflection: Our Christian faith is based on a love-relationship with God. From this love our actions and our rituals flow. From this love flows our non-judgmental attitude towards others. Into this love, happiness enters from God and flows from us to others. The words of Pope Francis re-iterate this: Keep your gaze fixed on Jesus Christ and learn from him how to love with a truly human heart, to care for the lost and hurting members of his flock, to work for justice and show solidarity with the weak and the poor’.
This must be one of the most easily understood and down-to-earth of the teachings of Jesus. It echoes the words of one of the prophets several hundred years earlier. “The heart is more devious than any other thing, and is depraved; who can pierce its secrets? I, the Lord, search the heart, test the motives, to give each person what his conduct deserves” Jeremiah (17: 9-10).
King David left us a beautiful consoling prayer that we can make our own: “A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence nor deprive me of your Holy Spirit” Psalm 50 (51). His prayer was favorably answered. So will ours.
It is important to know here that Mark is making clear to the gentile, (non-Jewish) Christian community that to be a follower of Jesus Christ does not require the observance of a multiplicity of Jewish rituals and laws.
We are not defiled or separated from God, by externals, such as the kinds of food we eat, but by the sins in our heart and the evil intentions and their sinful results.
Jewish tradition held that some foods were clean and others unclean. Jesus says that all foods are clean. What matters, he says, is the heart! By ‘the heart’ he meant what is inside us: moods, thoughts, plans, attitudes, choices, conscience, knowledge and love. All these must be kept clean.
Jesus calls out the crowd again. This lesson about the heart has to be repeated and stressed. Good manners and proper behavior vary from group to group. But the underlying goodness or badness crosses all social divides. That is what we look to, hear and understand.
Sometimes the suffering and injustices of our time make it hard to believe in the arc of love. Hope lets us literally see the presence and action of the holy in our everyday lives. It is the solid evidence of the power of love made visible in abundance.
Action of the Day: Sometimes, in this troubled world of ours, we forget that love is all around us. We imagine the worst of other people and withdraw into our own shells. But try this simple test: Stand still in any crowded place and watch the people around you. Within a very short time, you will begin to see love, and you will see it over and over and over. A young mother talking to her child, a couple laughing together as they walk by, an older man holding the door for a stranger—small signs of love are everywhere. The more you look, the more you will see. Love is literally everywhere. We are surrounded by love.