Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
“You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)—then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:1-23
Sometimes the best people and the finest institutions can be defiled, no matter how up standing and righteous they may seem. We humans scheme too much and hide behind piety and practice. Often times, people scheme because they have been so hurt, they refuse to be hurt again. Others expect to get revenge and hide behind their outward goodness. None of us can keep from being hurt, or from getting sick on occasion, but we can work at humility and love in our hearts. We can do the work to radiate goodness and love from within.
Today, Jesus observes the difference between lives that look good and those that are good. We are often taken in by glamor and fame, even when we know the makeup is covering horrible cruelty and brokenness. We honor the thinnest and winners and overlook the best hiding in plain sight. God invites us today to see the people who are blessings us all around, and to follow their example of quiet humility.
Today I ask God to help me remove the pride and jealousy from my heart that stand in the way of honoring the true blessings in our midst. May we all, in this Lenten season, do the hard interior work of self-examination, so that we might be ready to embrace anew the resurrection.