10 February 2009 Our Lady of Lourdes
Genesis 2, 4-17; Psalm 104; Mark 7, 14-23
Have you ever wondered why there are no food restrictions for Catholics? Muslims are not allowed to eat pork; members of the Iglesia ni Kristo are prohibited from eating blood. But Catholics can eat anything. The reason is the Gospel today. A parenthetical statement is in the Gospel of Mark, “thus rendering all foods clean.”
The teaching of Jesus was revolutionary during His time. Jesus said that nothing from outside that enters our bodies defile us; but what comes from our heart renders us unclean. The first reading from Genesis tell us that all that the Lord created are good. The Jews religiously followed Leviticus 11 which has a list of unclean animals. They would rather die than eat them and be impure. This is illustrated in the Book of Maccabees. The Syrian King, Antiochus Epiphanes wanted the Jews to renounce their faith by asking them to eat pork, but many --- hundreds in fact --- chose death than desecrate themselves. There is even a story of a widow with seven sons. She even encouraged them to die than be dishonored: her sons were roasted, limbs cut, flogged, killed in front of her. And thus, when Jesus said that nothing one eats cannot render a person impure, He was, in effect, saying that the reason --- eating pork --- was irrelevant.
What can make us unclean? Jesus gave many examples. We know our evil thoughts could lead us to do evil. There are people who like to do harm to others. We have seen the effect of greed that traces its roots from our penchant to own; our love for having and coveting. We have experience the effect of pride, of feeling that we are above all others. Let me zero in on those we are not so aware of.
First, envy. Envy takes different forms. In general, an envious person is never happy with the success of another. He or she will always try to bring down the person. They call envy, “the Evil Eye”. Remember, Lord of the Rings: the evil eye would control even those with a good heart. I hear this often: when a neighbor’s son got a job abroad, many attributed his success from the ‘connections’ the family has, than his qualifications, achievements and educational attainment. When Mickey Rourke won best actor in “The Wrestler” at the Screen Actors Guild, people of the press noticed his look and dubbed him as the ‘worst-dressed’. Mickey Rourke made a good come-back. Why can’t we be happy for the success of another?
Second, licentiousness. The Greek word used is aseigeia, meaning, “wanton wickedness”. It is the disposition that resents all kinds of discipline and self-control, who hates constraint, check, control, moderation, and dares to do whatever the heart desires. These are the people who lost their sense of decency and shame. They do not value self-discipline, moderation, prudence, and judiciousness. They are unmindful of their effect on others. It is true that there are boundaries to privacy, but we cannot deny that our lives influence other people’s values also. Jesus said that we should not dis-edify or cause scandal to others. We must help in the formation of other people’s conscience. We must educate, cultivate, develop behavior that respects one’s dignity and other people’s honor.
Third, the Greek word used is ‘dolos’ meaning a bait. We often used this to misguide others and to cause them harm. It is guile: a sly and cunning intelligence that is the center of trickery, deception, and deceit. Those with guile are the people who lie and to whom we do not trust with our secrets. They might used them against us. They are scheming and manipulative. They live in duplicity and deviousness. The value opposite guile is honesty and trustworthiness.
We must therefore be aware of our hearts. What contaminates our heart can lead us to sin, cause harm, mar our character, or break our relationships.