Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What comes from within (Wednesday, Week V in Ordinary Time, 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 crowdhis disciples questioned him about the parable.He said to them,“Are even you likewise without understanding?Do you not realize that everythingthat goes into a person from outside cannot defile,since it enters not the heart but the stomachand 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.”

* * * * * * * * *

In effect, what Jesus was saying in this gospel passage was that things cannot be either clean or unclean in any real religious sense of the word. Only persons can really be defiled; and what defiles a person is his own actions which are the products of his own heart. This was, during that time, a shatteringly new doctrine for the Jews who had a long list of things, behaviors, and animals that were regarded as unclean. With one sweeping pronouncement Jesus declared the entire system irrelevant and that uncleanness has nothing to do with what a person takes into his body but everything to do with what comes out of his heart. For one's actions, attitudes, and behavior spring from a heart that is either abundant and full or impoverished and empty.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)