22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B - 2/9/2018 - Gospel: Mk 7: 1-8a. 14-15. 21-23
Contaminated heart
Exterior contaminated affects our physical bodies and the mind of a person while interior contaminated will influence our heart and our spiritual lives. Physical contamination causes can be by lack of personal hygiene or touching an unclean object. Mental contamination comes from feeding the mind with unhealthy materials. Spiritual contamination develops from neglecting the teaching of Jesus. The conflict happened between Jesus and the scribes when they questioned Jesus' disciples that 'why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?' Mk 7,5. The accusers were focussing more on the leader than the followers. Jesus was their leader so the accusing was directly at Jesus. Jesus responded with a quote from the prophet Isaiah which shifted the direction of the conflict

This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. v 7:6b.

First, the above statement implied that it was more than a criticism of lip worship practices but rather it was a condemnation of the emptiness of God's love in the human heart. Jesus stressed that the lips of the people were about God but their hearts were not God v.6b. Jesus told them that it was not what one took into oneself that made a person impure, but rather the things that came out from inside that made the person impure v.15. The heart was understood as the centre of human will and a home of all desires. It was from the heart which all our intentions, good and bad arose. The corruption of the human heart was rooted in desire of consumption.

Second, market place was the place where the sick and the needy hung around begging for food and mercy. By linking the marketplace with the poor and the sick the message of God's love was shifting the focus from talking, of ritual purity, to the doing, the healing power of Jesus. The Pharisees and Scribes should have known that their traditions had no power to save them but God's love and mercy. It was improper to place traditions before God's commandment.

Further they had focused on the externals of observations and neglected to examine of their own hearts. Instead of expressing the holiness of God, the leaders had created divisions between the ' clean' and  ' unclean' to their own congregation. It was not piety that helped to fulfil the heart of the law but rather by loving God and loving our neighbours and that was God's way. No law or tradition can protect us free from contamination of the heart. Interior contamination can defile our lives and do great harm to others. Interior cleanliness gains from putting the word of God in motion by means of providing services for the outcasts and the needy. Following Jesus means to copy his way of life. It is not about clean hands, but dirty hands with a clean heart. It is God's free gift given to those who thirst for what is right. Let's open our hearts to receive God's gift. The more that God's love touches our heart the more we love God and the more we are drawn closer to God and the more we are free from the desire of consumption.