Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Gospel for Wednesday, 5th Week in Ordinary Time

Memorial: St Scholastica, Virgin

From: Mark 7:14-23

What Defiles a Man
[14] And He (Jesus) called the people to meet Him, and said to them, "Hear Me, all of you, and understand: [15] there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things that come out of a man are what defile him." [17] And when He had entered the house, and left the people, His disciples asked Him about the parable. [18] And He said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, [19] since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.) [20] And He said, "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, [22] coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. [23] All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.

15. Some important codexes add here: "If any man has ears to hear, let him hear," which would form verse 16.

18-19. We know from Tradition that St. Mark was the interpreter of St. Peter and that, in writing his Gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he gathered up the Roman catechesis of the head of the Apostles.

The vision which St. Peter had in Joppa (Acts 10:10-16) showed him the full depth of what Jesus teaches here about food. When he returns to Jerusalem, St. Peter himself tells us this in his report on the conversion of Cornelius: "I remembered the word of the Lord" (Acts 11:16). The now non-obligatory character of such prescriptions laid down by God in the Old Testament (cf. Leviticus 11) would have been something St. Peter included in his preaching. For interpretation of this text cf. also note on Matthew 15:10-20.

[Note on Matthew 15:10-20 states:
10-20. Our Lord proclaims the true meaning of moral precepts and makes it clear that man has to answer to God for his actions. The scribes' mistake consisted in concentrating on externals and not giving pride of place to interior purity of heart. For example they saw prayer in terms of exact recital of fixed forms of words rather than as a raising of the soul to God (cf. Matthew 6:5-6). The same thing happened in the case of dietary regulations.

Jesus avails Himself of the particular cases dealt with in this passage to teach us where to find the true center of moral action: it lies in man's personal decision, good or evil, a decision which is shaped in his heart and which then is expressed in the form of action. For example, the sins which our Lord lists are sins committed in the human heart prior to being acted out. In the Sermon on the Mount He already said this: "Every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).]

20-23. "In order to help us understand divine things, Scripture uses the _expression `heart' in its full meaning, as the summary and source, _expression and ultimate basis, of one's thoughts, words and actions" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 164).

The goodness or malice, the moral quality, of our actions does not depend on their spontaneous, instinctive character. The Lord Himself tells us that sinful actions can come from the human heart.

We can understand how this can happen if we realize that, after original sin, man "was changed for the worse" in both body and soul and was, therefore, prone to evil (cf. Council of Trent, "De Peccato Originali"). Our Lord here restores morality in all its purity and intensity.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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