Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
The Healer of Hearts by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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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."
Two weeks ago, I made an appointment to visit my doctor in September. It has been a couple of years since I have had a physical exam. For a few reasons, I put it off for too long. I think that it is really important to go to the doctor so that they can assess our health, keep an eye on potential or real health problems and give us a plan for becoming more healthy.
Jesus is the Divine Physician. He came to heal us from sin, selfishness and meaninglessness. He is brilliant in all areas of health, but principally He is a cardiologist: He heals hearts. He knows best what makes us healthy, strong and full of life.
In our Gospel today, a group of Pharisees and scribes are trying to get healthy and stay healthy on their own. Without getting an outside opinion, especially from the Lord Himself, this group of religious leaders has gone astray. They are not heart-healthy.
Jesus offers a painful diagnosis: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” They are focused on the rules and regulations for ritual cleansing before meals. They are bogged down in the minor details of the secondary laws and miss the big picture. After an extended period of time of focusing on the wrong things, they have become completely confused about what makes the heart strong.
Our Lord goes on to name what really defiles a person — that is, the most important causes of serious heart problems: “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.”
The sad truth is that it is very easy in life to imitate the Pharisees and scribes and focus on the things in life that we find easy to address or the things that we, in our weakness, consider important while ignoring much more significant issues, tasks or problems.
Do you want a healthy heart? When was the last time you made a real appointment with Jesus? Jesus is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even makes house calls. He loves to heal us and always starts with a healthy dose of mercy. It is amazing how generous He is with the gift of forgiveness. And He never asks for a co-pay.
Every good physician wants not only to heal ailments and avoid sickness but also to promote lasting health. Jesus has a proven plan for restoring us to the fullness of life. He inspired a manual for heart health. It was, interestingly, authored by four of His patients: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
One of His other patients, the author of the letter of St. James, encourages the world to visit that manual (which you can easily find online): “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.”
Jesus knows how important the heart is to our well-being. He alone has the perfect remedy to heal and strengthen our hearts. Are you willing to entrust your heart to Him?
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