“…there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” – Mark 7:15
Jesus has been arguing with the those experts of the Law of Moses over some points of the traditional law. We pick that up today with a statement which turned the Jewish believer’s world upside down.
Yesterday we read in the beginning of this chapter of Mark how no Jew would eat without performing the prescribed washing rituals. And we know from our readings in the Old Testament up to this point, there were foods that were named unclean for them to eat by God himself. So, what is Jesus doing here? Is He contradicting himself? It seems he was shredding the laws that Jews have suffered and died for (see 2 Maccabees 7 for a graphic example, where a mother and her seven sons die because they refuse to eat pork). This was no parsing of words; this was revolutionary and the scribes and Pharisees did not like it. Even his disciples were amazed.
Jesus was making an important distinction that would be good for us who are beginning our lenten pilgrimage can glean from. Jesus wants us to be aware of things and persons. Things cannot be clean or unclean in a true religious sense. They are what they are. Persons, on the other hand, can make themselves unclean by their actions which come from their inner decisions (the heart).
Jesus gives a brutal list of things that manifest from the heart that we should be careful to avoid altogether:
- evil thoughts – our wrong doing doesn’t just happen; it is born from our thoughts, an inward choice.
- fornications – every kind of sexual vice.
- thefts – purposeful, deviant thievery.
- murders – taking life, physically or morally.
- adulteries – taking of what belongs to another.
- deeds of coveting – insatiable appetite to gain for oneself. Plato sums this category up well: “The desire of a man is like a sieve or pierced vessel which he ever tries to, and can never fill.” Seeking a happiness in things instead of in God.
- wickedness – the desire to harm others, to delight in another’s tragedy.
- deceit – crafty, cunning trickery.
- sensuality – resents discipline of the appetite, and abandons himself to it, with no sense of shame (our society on a whole has lost this sense).
- envy – to despise another’s good fortune, to wanting to tear it down, or wish them evil.
- slander – use words against another in order to insult.
- pride – see oneself above others. Interior pride is very harmful, as one may secretly compare themselves to others and see themselves as superior.
- foolishness – one who chooses to play the fool even though he knows better.
What a list! Jesus wants us to be careful of what exits from our heart, or interior decision-making that gives way to our actions. May we use this lenten season to purify our hearts, turning to the Sacraments for strength and, in times where we fail come with contrite hearts to be reconciled to God.
What is the state of your heart? Is what comes out of you today worthy of your name as follower of Jesus?
May God Bless you.