THROUGH HIS CROSS
(A biblical reflection on the 22nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 29 August 2021)
Gospel Reading: Mark 7:1-9,14-15,21-23
First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8; Psalms: Psalm 15:2-5; Second Reading: James 1:17-18,21-22,27
The Scripture Text
Now when the Pharisees gathered together to Him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of His disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze. And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?” and He said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.”
And He said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition!
And He called the people to Him again, and said to them, “Hear Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.”
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.” (Mark 7:1-9,14-15,21-23 RSV)
The Pharisees who confronted Jesus about His disciples’ ritual purity were so concerned with strict observance of the law – some of which didn’t even come from God – that they lost sight of God’s desire for mercy, justice, and love. More than anything else, such inverted priorities caused Jesus to respond abruptly and forcefully as He directed His disciples to look at the state of their hearts before they considered their actions.
When we look at Jesus’ description of the human heart and the sins that rise from it (see Mark 7:20-21), we might feel a sense of self-condemnation and despair. After all, who could look at such a list without seeing something of a reflection of their inner state?
God calls us to examine our hearts not so that we would feel condemned, but that we would know freedom and peace. Many saints have commented that the more deeply they saw their sin, the more fully they recognized God’s mercy and love. The humility they demonstrated was not cowardice, but a recognition of their need for God, coupled with confidence in His power at work in them. In fact, they considered it a privilege to come to such self-knowledge, for it always led them to the Lord. It was this privilege that these Pharisees denied themselves and prevented their followers from experiencing.
Through His Cross, Jesus has forgiven our sins. He shed His blood to cleanse our hearts. We don’t have to be perfect to be accepted by God. We simply have to respond to Him by repenting for our sins, loving Him in return, and choosing with a willing heart to obey Him. Jesus will take care of the rest. Looking into our hearts is not such a bad thing when we realize that in the midst of the sin and darkness, Jesus is still there, wanting to shine His light more brightly.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, by Your Cross You conquered sin. In Your resurrection You removed condemnation. May these truths give us the freedom to examine our hearts and know the power of Your Holy Spirit as we seek to please You and obey Your commands. Amen.HisHis
Jakarta, 28 August 2021
A Christian Pilgrim