What comes out of the Heart

Aug 31, 2018

Gospel Reflection
Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8; James 1: 17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

What comes out of the Heart

“Wash your hands before eating!”  How often we have heard that as a child.  If we had known this gospel reading then, we might have said, “Well, Jesus and his disciples never had to wash their hands.”

Why did they not do it?  Was it from sloppiness or laziness?  Was it a protest against customs?  It was for these reasons that we would not have washed our hands sometimes as children.  What is it, though, to make a fuss about in washing your hands when you come in from the dirty, dusty market?  And washing the pots and pans that you use for cooking and eating makes perfect sense also.

But this dispute was about more than rules for good health.  Anyone who did not practice these acts of cleansing was not ready for prayer or for worship, so the elders taught.  That is what Jesus was protesting against; not against washing one’s hands or washing the pots and pans.  The person who is unclean before God is not the one with dirty hands but the one whose heart is full of hate.  All external activity is empty and hypocritical unless it comes from the heart.  It is not the person who behaves in a pious fashion who is necessarily pleasing to God.  Rather, it is the person who is good from his or her heart.  What use are all possible external practices if they are hollow within?

Jesus calls such behavior hypocrisy and there was nothing he attacked so strongly.  It is not the appearance that counts before God, but the reality.  Jesus always praised and loved what was genuine.  So if evil comes from the heart, we must guard our hearts from having evil let into it from outside sources.  How much evil comes into our hearts from malicious slander and gossip?  How many evil pictures and songs can take root in our minds through videos, the internet, and television. 

However, everything that is good also comes from the heart: loving thoughts and actions, those of kindness and understanding, and above all mercy, which no one gives us so generously as Jesus.  There is nothing false or feigned in his heart.  That is the important thing, rather than washing one’s hands.


Father Tony