Jesus continues His illuminating lesson from yesterday with the important point: “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”
St. Ignatius teaches us, in the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises, that we were created to love God, and that “…the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.” In other words the created things of this world are not in themselves evil; rather it is we who might take a good thing and twist it in the darkness of our hearts.
Jesus uses the example of the dietary laws of Judaism, reminding the Pharisees that eating, say, pork, does not make a person evil or otherwise separated from God because pork, in and of itself, does nothing to the heart and soul of a person. Even His disciples struggled to grasp this, since the dietary laws were so important to their own religious identity. But Jesus, seeing their open hearts, shines the light of truth on this: it is not food or any exterior thing that defiles a person, but rather their own failure to love God and neighbor that defiles them.
If we pause and think of the challenges we currently face in the world, consider how different even the most seemingly impossible situations would be if instead of “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly” we saw charitable thoughts, purity, generosity, the preservation of the dignity of all human life, marital fidelity, satisfaction, goodwill, honesty, chastity, gratitude, holiness, humility, and care? In other words, what if these latter things came from our hearts, instead of the former? In a culture obsessed with organic foods, nutritious eating, exercise, fake news, and other exterior things that “feed” us, what if we were equally obsessed with what was “coming out of us?”
We are so quick to dismiss a person because they are “liberal” and take in liberal propaganda; we dismiss conservatives on the same grounds. We dismiss traditional brothers and sisters in our Church for a perceived rigidity; we dismiss progressive brothers and sisters for their perceived laxity and infidelity to the Church. We dismiss strangers and aliens among us because they are not citizens, yet in doing so we deny our own citizenship in the Kingdom to which we truly belong. When the light of Christ illumines our hearts and casts out the darkness within, when our hearts are filled with His love, we find the world looks very different.
Let all of us bear today’s Gospel in mind, especially as differences and tensions run so high in these days. Let us remember Jesus’ words elsewhere: “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)