First Reading: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8
Moses said to the people: “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. In your observance of the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin upon you, you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’ For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today?”
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 15:2-3, 3-4, 4-5
One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord. Whoever walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue. Who harms not his fellow man, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor; by whom the reprobate is despised, while he honors those who fear the LORD. Who lends not his money at usury and accepts no bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things shall never be disturbed.
Second Reading: James 1:17-18, 21B-22, 27
Dearest brothers and sisters: All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 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. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Gospel: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
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 them, “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 gripped the sponge tighter, holding on firmly to keep it from slipping as I put all my strength into scrubbing the counter. Internally, I was fuming. My mother had asked me to clean the kitchen and I had “more important” things to do.
While the kitchen was becoming cleaner by the minute, I was busy dirtying my heart. I muttered under my breath, I cursed this blasted project I was asked to do. I thought of all the horrible words and eye rolling I would engage in later when speaking with my mother.
The dirt of that kitchen had nothing on the filth I was piling on my soul. All the good I was doing fulfilling my mother’s request—completely negated by the state of my heart.
This is a scene which unfolded all too frequently, I’m afraid, when I was younger. It was then followed by harsh words, passive-aggressive comments, door slamming, yelling. I would do a mighty fine job of defiling my heart.
“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.”
We are our own worst enemy when it comes to sin. It is our choice—to do good or to do evil. All the temptations which assail us, they mean nothing if we don’t give into them. The devil, worldly temptations, people who are a bad influence—they can do nothing to taint your soul. Only you can give them that power. (Although we should definitely try to avoid those near occasions of sin!)
But virtue is our friend. Practicing good habits, finding joy in our suffering, combatting against those rude thoughts—these things help ensure that what comes forth from our hearts and our mouths give Him glory rather than contribute to the weight of His Cross.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flows the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)[Tweet “It is our choice—to do good or to do evil.”]
Choose today to radiate Christ in your thoughts, deeds, words and actions! Practice small acts of charity with a joyful heart to combat against those bad thoughts which try to creep in and destroy.
Laurel Muff is a creator and appreciator of beautiful things. She resides with her husband and daughters in Northern California. You can find more about her here