Jesus wants to emphasize a point. It’s not just about people following tradition, rather than God’s word. It’s about knowing the human heart as the source for both good and evil. It can be tempting to read these passages and point a finger at church leaders or “certain types” of believers. But if we do that, we are missing the message Christ has for us. In Mark 7:14, Jesus says, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand.” He’s basically saying, “If you thought this lesson didn't apply to you, think again!”

Jesus was not just condemning the Pharisees, nor was he necessarily trying to fully negate the Jewish dietary customs found in Mosaic Law. He was more broadly trying to show that we should be more concerned about the conditions of our hearts than about what we eat or how we eat. We so readily like to imagine that evil, sin—whatever your term for separation from God—comes from outside of us or is more readily found in certain types of people. But Jesus says that if we don't pay attention to our heart, we are just as likely as anyone else to be the source of sin and evil and all that separates us from God. Our words can bring life or death to ourselves and into the world depending on the condition of our hearts. Our actions, regardless of whether they appear righteous or justified in our minds, can have varying intentions and results depending on the condition of our hearts.

Reading this passage brings to mind all the psalms that speak of giving our hearts to God, searching our hearts, asking God to cleanse our hearts, heal our hearts, teach us so that the meditations of our hearts are pleasing to God. The psalmist knew the depth to which the human heart can both rise and fall. Jesus is trying to teach us to know the same thing and to constantly seek to choose Life.

Holy Spirit, teach me how to search my heart with honesty before you. Help me learn how to cultivate a heart from which true life flows in my words and actions. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

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Lectionary Week
August 23 29, 2021
Scripture Overview

The poetry of Song of Solomon is thick with romantic imagery, and most scholars agree that these lines mean what they say on the surface; they are written from the author to the beloved. Psalm 45 echoes the refrain of admiration and desire. Such desire is not wrong if it is awakened at the proper time, as the author of Song of Solomon says elsewhere. James argues that ethical living is done not in word but in deed. True religion is not putting on a show but displaying mercy and controlling the tongue. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes some of the religious leaders on this very account because they talk of obedience to God but do not live it out. What we say and what we do should match.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Song of Solomon 2:8-13. The narrative poetry of Song of Solomon invites us into scripture in a different way than other texts. How does God speak to you through this poetry?
Read Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9. How do your relationships honor the gift of love?
Read James 1:17-27. When do you find yourself as merely a “hearer” of the word and not a “doer”? What motivates you to act on God’s word?
Read Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. What human traditions or rituals do you tend to make too important?

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