Today’s readings.. (Genesis 24), (Psalms 29,30), (Matthew 15)
The world today is very conscious of cleanliness. When you go to the Doctors, he or she will thoroughly wash their hands before they examine you, but they only learnt to do this 150 years ago. They also learnt this was the reason why some of those they operated on had died. The value of the cleanliness laws in the commands God gave to Moses was then acknowledged. These laws stressed the great importance of washing the body and clothes especially when exposed to anything unclean, see for e.g. Lev. 14 v.8,9; 15 v.13 etc.
Today soaps and other cleansing agents are strongly marketed: this is good, except for the fancy high priced varieties produced, we suspect, with a profit motive. Jewish Priests in the days of Jesus had turned cleanliness into a ritual that made them feel more righteous (see Luke 11 v.37-41). And they criticised Jesus for letting his disciples eat with unwashed hands (Mark 7 v.2-5)
In our reading of Matthew 15 today Jesus calls them hypocrites and said, “This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” [Matthew 15 v.7-9]. He then called people to him and said, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth”[v.11]
His disciples query him as to what he means by this; he tells them, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” [v.18-20]
The thought comes first, then the deed follows. Our world is full of this kind of defilement. Before every wrong doing comes wrong thinking. TV, DVD’s and many magazines feed human minds, defiling them, making them inclined to think and imagine fleshly godless actions. More people, especially the young, are turning thoughts into actions emulating what they feed their minds on – the extreme examples are the senseless shooting rampages.
Sources of defilement are everywhere today making it more essential than ever to feed our minds with the word of God every day – and it must be a balanced meal, not just reading the bits we like and which may not challenge our consciences. Jesus condemns those whose distorted application of the divine revelation “have made void the word of God.” [Matt. 15 v.6]. Let us be fully awake to what can defile us and read God’s word with a sincere heart..