In today’s gospel passage from Mark, Jesus comments on the purification rituals that dominated the religious life of Jews in his day. Jesus’ comments turn the discussion inside out. Instead of dwelling on whether or not one is “defiled” by, for example, failing to purify vessels, Jesus turns the teaching toward the hearts of those present. His teaching exposes reliance on formula and ritual as futile efforts to avoid the reformation of the heart. As Jesus says, it is the evil that comes from our hearts that truly defiles.
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.
Let’s define terms. What does it mean to defile? It means to desecrate or profane something that is sacred. So what is it that Jesus is teaching us? That we are sacred, that we are holy, that we are God’s special creation. All of the things that Jesus lists are traits and attributes that diminish our sacredness, our holiness.
Live in the sacred, not the profane. God’s desire for us is that we embrace our destiny as his most beloved creation.