Lectio Divina: Mark 7:14-23
1) Opening prayer
watch over Your family
and keep us safe in Your care,
for all our hope is in You.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Mark 7:14-23
Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
The Gospel today is the continuation of the themes on which we meditated yesterday. Jesus helps the people and the disciples to understand better the significance of purity before God. For centuries, the Jews, in order not to contract impurity, observed many norms and customs bound to food, to drink, to dress, to hygiene of the body, to contact with persons of other races and religions, etc. (Mk 7: 3-4). For them it was forbidden to have contact with gentiles and to eat with them. In the 70’s, the time of Mark, some converted Jews said, “Now that we are Christians we have to abandon these ancient customs which separate us from converted gentiles!” But others thought that they had to continue with the observance of these laws of purity (cf. Col 2: 16,20-22). The attitude of Jesus, described in today’s Gospel, helps us to overcome this problem.
Mark 7: 14-16: Jesus opens a new way to try to bring people closer to God. He says to the crowds, “Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean; it is the things that come out of someone that make that person unclean (Mk 7: 15). Jesus overturns things: what is impure does not come from outside to the inside, as the Doctors of the Law taught, but what comes from inside to the outside. Thus, nobody ever needs to ask himself if this or that food is pure or impure. Jesus places what is pure and impure on another level, not on the level of ethical behavior. He opens a new way to reach God, and in this way realizes the most profound design of the people. .
Mark 7: 17-23: In the house, the disciples asked for an explanation. The disciples did not understand what Jesus wanted to say with that affirmation. When they reached the house, they ask for an explanation. The disciples’ question surprises Jesus. He thought that they had understood the parable. In His explanation to the disciples He goes to the very bottom of the question of impurity. He declares that all food is pure! In other words, no food which enters into the human being from outside can make him become impure, because it does not go to the heart, but to the stomach and ends in the septic tank, but what makes one become impure, according to Jesus, is what comes out from within the heart to poison human relationships. And then He enumerates some of them: prostitution, murder, adultery, ambition, theft, etc. Thus in many ways, by means of the word, of life together, of living close to one another, Jesus helps people to attain purity in another way. By means of the word He purified the lepers (Mk 1: 40-44), cast out unclean spirits (Mk 1: 26,39; 3: 15,22, etc.), and overcame death, which was the source of all impurity. Thanks to Jesus, who touches her, the woman who was excluded and considered impure is cured (Mk 5: 25-34). Without fear of being contaminated, Jesus eats together with people who were considered impure (Mk 2: 15-17).
The laws of purity at the time of Jesus. The people of that time were concerned very much about purity. The laws and the norms of purity indicated the necessary conditions to be able to place oneself before God and to feel well in His presence. One could not approach God in just any way, because God is holy. The Law stated, “Be holy because I am holy!” (Lv 19: 2). One who was not pure could not get close to God to receive the blessings promised to Abraham. The laws of what was pure and impure (Lv 11 to 16) were written after the time of slavery in Babylon, around the year 800 after the Exodus, but had its origin in the ancient mentality and customs of the people of the Bible. A religious and mystical vision of the world led people to appreciate things, people and animals, beginning from the category of purity (Gn 7: 2; Dt 14: 13-21; Nm 12: 10-15; Dt 24: 8-9).
In the context of the Persian domination, the fifth and fourth centuries before Christ, before the difficulties of reconstructing the Temple of Jerusalem and of the survival of the clergy, the priests who governed the people of the Bible increased the laws relative to poverty and obliged the people to offer sacrifices of purification for sin. Thus, after child birth (Lv 12: 1-8), menstruation (Lv 15: 19-24) the cure of a hemorrhage (Lv 15: 25-30), women had to offer sacrifices to recover purity. Lepers (Lv 13) or people who had contact with impure things or animals (Lv 5:1-13) also had to offer sacrifices. Part of this offering remained for the priests (Lv 5: 13).
At the time of Jesus, to touch a leper, to eat with a tax collector or publican, to eat without washing your hands, and so many other activities rendered the person impure, and any contact with this person contaminated the others. For this reason, it was necessary to avoid an impure person. People lived with fear, always threatened by so many impure things which threatened life. They were obliged to live without trust, not trusting anything or anybody. Now, all of a sudden, everything changes! Through faith in Jesus, it was possible to have purity and to feel good before God without having to observe all those laws and those norms of the ancient tradition . It was liberation! The Good News announced by Jesus took away all fear from the people, and they no longer had to be in a defensive situation all the time, and He gives them back the desire to live, and the joy of being children of God, without fear of being happy!
4) Personal questions
In your life, are there any traditions which you consider sacred and others which you do not? Which ones? Why?
In the name of the tradition of the ancients, the Pharisees refused the Commandment of Jesus. Does this happen today? Where and when? Does it also happen in my life?
5) Concluding prayer
The upright have Yahweh for their Savior,
their refuge in times of trouble;
Yahweh helps them and rescues them,
He will rescue them from the wicked,
and save them because they take refuge in Him. (Ps 37:39-40)