Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
All About Humility
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. - For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. - So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, "Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?" He responded, "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition." He summoned the crowd again and said to then, "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.
"From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile."
I would like to use three words to guide my reflection on the readings for today: humility, humility, humility.
Humility. Pride was at the root of the first sin of Adam and Eve; they convinced themselves that they knew better than God about the path to human flourishing and freely chose to disobey God. Consequently, pride is at the root of all sin. One way in which pride rears its ugly head is when we fail to fully recognize the source of every good thing that we ever see or experience. St. Paul reminds us very succinctly: "All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights." We are more fully human the more we are able to accept and cherish the reality that everything good, including everything good that we do is a complete gift from God, the Father. Even those fruits of our intelligence, hard work, perseverance and wisdom are gifts from above. This is why gratitude is one of the principal sentiments that should well up in our hearts and souls every day.
Humility. Most Christians find it easy to grasp that our hearts need to be converted. For example, we regularly have the experience of intensely wanting something that is not good for us, that is clearly against God's plan. We also have the experience of not wanting to do certain things that are very good for us such as prayer, exercise, fulfilling a responsibility or doing something charitable for another that requires sacrifice on our part. We all know how easy it is for our hearts to go astray.
On the other hand, it is harder for us to embrace that our minds need conversion as well. God asks us to surrender out way of thinking to his wisdom and truth. Our minds often are clouded by sin and selfishness that keep us from being able to see the world as it truly is and grasp truths he chooses to reveal about himself. God asks us to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, entrusted to the church by Christ, and to accept the authority given to the church (the Magisterium) to help us draw properly from the two fonts of revelation: Scripture and tradition.
St. Paul exhorts us: "Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves." We need to make it a serious project of our lives to study God's word, strive to understand it and actively implement it into our daily lives. God's word should transform our lives, heal us and grant us much needed wisdom. It should drive us to imitate Christ more fully every day of ur lives. We need humility to accept Paul's others exhortation: "Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect" (Rom 12:2).
Humility. We are very easily distracted by the world and its allurements. We are attacked by various elements of ur culture, especially the world of advertising, to focus out time and energy on things that are not important. We are tempted by our own inner demons to lose sight of those things that really matter in life.
Jesus chastises certain Jews in today's Gospel passage for getting too caught up in certain human traditions such as ritual purifications and the proper washing of cups, jugs and kettles, and failing to focus on much more important realities like rooting out serious sinful vices and actions such as "evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly." We can be so easily deceived by the devil to focus on something simple, concrete and easy to measure, and fail to resolve much more important issues that are much harder to surrender and overcome. It demands humility to let go of ur human traditions and address those things that are much more important to God.
The humility of Christ is one of his most inspiring qualities. The humility of the saints often causes us to stop in our tracks, fall to our knees and desire to imitate them. Their humility invites us to live our lives as a grateful response to God, surrender ur way of thinking to God's wisdom revealed in Scripture and tradition, and get our priorities straight.