5TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.
For centuries, the Israelites lived in covenant with God. They took his commandments seriously and upheld their traditions to maintain their distinction as God’s people. Obeying God’s law was so central to their identity that many would have given their lives to avoid breaking it. Take the story of the Maccabees, for example. In 167 BC, a Syrian king demanded that the Jewish people give up their customs. Facing death, hundreds of Israelites sacrificed their lives rather than eat the king’s unclean food (1 Maccabbees 1:62-63).
So we can understand why people were troubled by Jesus’ declaration that eating the wrong foods didn’t defile a person (Mark 7:14-15). He was telling them that being “clean” in the eyes of God has far more to do with the attitudes of the heart than with the food they eat or the objects they touch. Jesus was concerned with a deeper kind of defilement.
What about us? Jesus is teaching us that our “defilements” come from within us. Even more, they wound our souls and so can’t be healed from the outside. It’s not enough for us just to try to change our behavior; we need God to renew our hearts as well. Our sinful mindsets and wounded souls need healing and grace that come only from God. Then we can better follow him.
The good news is that sinful patterns of selfishness, pride, or envy can be broken by the power of God. This is why Jesus came into the world. He died, rose, and sent the Spirit into our hearts so that we could live new lives of freedom and joy! Every morning, we can allow him to search and forgive and heal our wounded hearts. We can repent of our sin and trust in his mercy. We can have confidence that by his Spirit, Jesus is healing what defiles us; he is making us new each and every day.
What hope we have! Our sin does not get the last word. Overcoming its effect in our lives does not rely solely upon our own strength. Today, let’s surrender ourselves to Jesus and invite him to breathe new life into our souls!
“Lord, I trust that you will make me clean and set me free!”
1 Kings 10:1-10
Psalm 37:5-6, 30-31, 39-40