Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
I am very sure you all know the commercial for Capital One Credit Card where they ask the question, “What’s in your wallet?” But I think the question Jesus repeats to us in this week’s Gospel is, ‘What’s in your heart?’ In today’s gospel there was a question, “What makes a person holy?” Jesus reminds us, by saying ‘what makes you holy and worthy of heaven is what is in your heart’. “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.” You know at the time of Jesus there were a list of things clean and unclean to eat. They had different rituals and rules to keep oneself clean. The Pharisees speak about external purity but Jesus is concerned about purity of soul. The Pharisees spoke about hands and mouth but Jesus spoke about heart and stomach. The Pharisees concentrated on what goes into a person but Jesus emphasized what comes out of a person. The Pharisees were keen observers of the distinction between clean and unclean because it reminded them that the Jews were a people set apart. Yet when God created the world everything was good. Genesis gives us two accounts of creation and each emphasizes the goodness of God’s creation. In part of the second account of creation which we heard today (Gen 2) we read that the trees in Eden were delightful to look at and good for food. But then the laws in Leviticus 11 forbade eating certain kinds of food. Now Jesus declares all food clean; it is no longer necessary to obey the food laws of Leviticus because as Genesis reminds us, everything God created is good. Jesus is restoring the understanding of creation in Genesis once again. If there is no longer a distinction between clean and unclean food, there is also no longer a distinction between clean and unclean persons.
What matters now is not eating with ritually clean hands. What matters now is our heart. Jesus asks that we wash and purify our hearts instead of ritually purifying our hands before eating. The list of vices that Jesus gives in today’s Gospel are lists sins against love of neighbor. Here again we see another way Jesus has broadened the debate. If the Pharisees were tempted to think that holiness could be achieved merely by observing ritual purity laws before God, Jesus teaches that holiness cannot be achieved without love of neighbor; his list of vices refers to most of the seven commandments of the Decalogue on love of neighbor. Jesus accuses them specifically of two things. First of hypocrisy. Like actors, who put on a show, they appear to obey God’s word in their external practices while they inwardly harbor evil desires and intentions. Allow God’s word to change your way of thinking. Secondly, he accuses them of abandoning God’s word by substituting their own arguments and ingenious interpretations for what God requires.
Jesus points his listeners to the source of true defilement – evil desires which come from inside a person’s innermost being. The temptations are inevitable they come to us. We do not need to entertain or give in to sinful desires or thoughts, but instead, through the grace of God, we can choose to put them to death rather than allow them to be the master who controls our way of thinking, feeling, and acting. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness only God can change our hearts and make them clean and whole through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord is ever ready to change and purify our hearts through his Holy Spirit who dwells within us. His power and grace enables us to choose what is good and to reject what is evil. Jesus made us clean and pure of heart as He promised through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you”. “I will put My Spirit within you and make you live by my statutes”. He did it through the sacrament of Baptism. And he asked us to keep forever clean and pure for the life of heaven.
Let us pray, “Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and make my heart like yours – on fire with love and holiness. Strengthen my will that I may always choose to love what is good and to reject what is evil.”
God Bless You,