Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
Cleanse our consciences, O Lord,
and enlighten our hearts through
the daily presence of your Son
Jesus Christ, that when he comes in glory
to be our judge
we may be found undefiled and acceptable
in his sight; who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.
- Song of Solomon 2:8-13
- Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9
- James 1:17-27
- Mark 7:1-8, 14-23
- Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
- Psalm 125
- James 2:1-10, 14-17
- Mark 7:24-37
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 14 – Mark 7:1-8, 14-23
“For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come …”
Today’s Gospel returns to Mark’s narrative of the Jesus story with a confrontation that Mark’s first Christian readers knew all too well. A contentious debate raged in the early Church as to whether Christians should continue to observe the practices of Judaism. Jesus challenges the scribes’ insistence that faithfulness to ceremonial washings and other rituals constitutes complete faithfulness to the will of God. He scandalises his hearers by proclaiming “nothing that enters a man from outside can make him impure; that which comes out of him, and only that, constitutes impurity.” It is the good that one does motivated by the spirit of the heart that is important in the eyes of God, not how scrupulously one keeps the laws and rituals mandated by tradition.
Through the centuries of Judaism, the scribes had constructed a rigid maze of definitions, admonitions, principles, and laws to explain the Pentateuch (summarised in Moses’ eloquent words to the nation of Israel in today’s first reading). As a result, the ethics of religion were often buried under a mountain of rules and taboos. Jesus’ teachings re-focus the canons of Israel on the original covenant based on the wisdom and discernment of the human heart. Such a challenge widens the growing gulf between Jesus and the Jewish establishment.
Faith begins with encountering God in our hearts; our faith is expressed in the good that we do and the praise we offer in the depths of our hearts, not simply in words and rituals performed “outside” of ourselves.
The kind of human being we are begins in the values of the heart, the place where God dwells within — but the evil we are capable of, the hurt we inflict on others, the degrading of the world that God created also begins “within,” when God is displaced by selfishness, greed, anger, hatred.
In the hurts, indignities and injustices perpetrated against us, what is often worse than the act itself is what the act does do us as persons: we respond with suspicion, cynicism, self-absorption, anger, vengeance. To be a disciple of Jesus is not to let those things “outside” us diminish what we are “inside” ourselves, not to let such anger or vengeance displace the things of God in our hearts but to let God’s presence transform the evil that we have encountered into compassion and forgiveness.
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