12.02.2020 — All foods are clean

Posted under Reflections on February 11th, 2020 by

Week 5 of Ordinary Time, Wednesday – 12th February — Gospel: Mark 7,14-23

All foods are clean

In Mark 7,18-19, Jesus shows that unlike food that simply passes through one’s system, that which is produced in the heart affects the whole person. Here, Jesus declares all food to be clean, which is radical. According to Lev 11,43-44 and 20,24-26, Yahweh ‘separated’ the clean from the unclean food in order to distinguish the Israelites from the surrounding peoples. The Jews preserved their religious and national identity through practices associated with food laws, hand washing, and Sabbath keeping. Mark’s explanation that Jesus declared all foods clean prepares the way for the Gentile mission. For the ceremonial elements always maintained a separation among group of people. Indeed, from here, Jesus enters into Tyre, the Gentile territory, and ministers to a Syrophoenician woman who displays more understanding of his ministry than those closest to him (7,24-30). 

11.02.2020 — Prepare the hearts not externals

Posted under Reflections on February 10th, 2020 by

Week 5 of Ordinary Time, Tuesday – 11th February — Gospel: Mark 7,1-13

Prepare the hearts not externals

Jesus speaks with Pharisees and scribes who raise the question of defilement. They notice that some of Jesus’ disciples were eating without washing their hands. The text continues within parenthesis, that the Pharisees, “and all the Jews”, follow “the tradition of elders”. The mere fact that only “some” of the disciples did not wash before eating tells that the claim that “all the Jews” follow the same tradition is a narrative exaggeration. Here again there is reference to the market place (7,4), which focuses our attention on the kingdom. By linking Jesus’ exchange with the Pharisees and scribes to the marketplace, Mark is asserting that the order of God’s kingdom ranks all other orders, and is shifting the focus from questions of ritual purity to preparation for that kingdom. Jesus is not rejecting the law; in fact, he is rebuking them for their failure to uphold it. Jesus is saying, whatever your practice, whichever traditions you do or don’t uphold, these are not the things that, by themselves, get you ready for God’s kingdom. The issue is the state of the human heart, which he highlights with Isaian quote: the hearts of “this people” are far from God and his commands. Jesus requests that we prepare our hearts, and thereby ourselves, for the kingdom of God.

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