Then Jesus 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.’
(Lectionary, New Revised Standard version)
We have seen how strict were the laws concerning ritual cleanliness for the Jews, indeed Mark mentions them again and again in his Gospel. But the laws concerning what could be eaten were just as strict. If you look at Leviticus 11 you will see the long list of things that are forbidden, no doubt many of them were sensible for a tribal people living in the wilderness. But Jesus argues, centuries later, that eating such foods cannot foul or pollute a person, in other words it cannot make them ritually unclean. We who eat what we wish can hardly understand the revolutionary nature of Jesus' statement - but people had been known to choose death in the past rather than eat something that was forbidden.
Jesus uses the word "heart" for what we might term our "brain" as the centre of our being, though most of us still think of the heart as the centre of our emotions, and talk about our "heart breaking" at times. The point is the same, our sins have their basis within us, and they are what make us polluted. But we have a choice! We don't have to give in to evil desires or intentions; we don't have to use our mouths to speak lies or slander; we don't need to use our bodies to wreak havoc around us because we're angry; we don't have to parade our pride before others - it's just that somehow we just do!
The point is we cannot change without God's help. If only we could start each day by asking His involvement in our life, things might be a lot easier.
we are prey to so many temptations
and often act without thinking
about the consequences.
We forget to consult You,
or we deliberately refrain from
turning to You,
because our conscience would
tell us we were going against
Help us to be honest with ourselves
and with You, each day.