Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
In the first reading Moses instructs the Israelites about the commandments. He tells them to, “Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’” We have these commandments to guide how we live our lives. As humans we know that we need more specific guides to fit various situations. For instance, a child runs through the hall in school, trips and cuts her head open. A rule is then instituted that says no one runs in the school halls.
This is what happened with the Israelites. Over time, all kinds of rules or traditions were developed to protect their religious beliefs and practices. In today’s gospel the Pharisees confront Jesus because his disciples are not adhering to some of their rules. They ate without washing or purifying their hands. “For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders.”
Jesus responds with strong words. “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. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Jesus is very clear that what comes from within us is far more important than exterior things. How often do we pay more attention to things that are seen rather than the motivation behind them? Do we judge people by what we see without knowing their motivation? Do we put too much weight on rules without thinking about the consequences they bring about? Rules should be for the benefit of people and not be burdens.
We are called to be holy people. Our words and actions should reflect this. It is not our words and actions that make us holy but rather the intentions behind them as we continually act in ways to deepen our relationship with God and others. Our daily conversion from the old person to the new one is called by God. Our holiness comes as we allow God to transform us – not by external rules or rituals. All of our words and actions should reflect the conversion of our heart, our interior being, to God.
In what ways do you allow external views importance rather than the reasons behind them?
What motivates your words and actions?