Today, Moses exhorts Israel to be obedient to the law he was about to entrust to them. It is the whole revelation of the Lord to his people. It is the revelation of God’s statutes, ordinances, and commandments, revealed through his covenant with them. There are innumerable advantages that follow fidelity to the covenant as a whole, because it is the total sharing of life and love with God himself, resulting to inevitable correlation between one’s behavior and his fate. The person will either be rewarded or punished. While idolatry and disobedience will result in destruction and exile from the land, as punishment from a jealous God, at the same time, heart-felt return and renewed obedience will lead to a restoration of Israel’s relationship with this merciful God. The reason for this is because, he is a benevolent God, who follows closely the events in the life of every person. In the light of this, Moses tells his people that by observing the law carefully, they would give evidence of their wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say about their closeness to their God: “ This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.” They will ask if there is a great nation that has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which, he, Moses has set before them (Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8).
God’s injunctions are very important, not only for Old Testament Israel, but also for our well-being, as well. That is why, Jesus in our gospel reading today, corrects the misconceptions of the Pharisees and some of the experts in the law, who came spying on his disciples, with their wrong emphases about eating meals, without first washing their hands. They wanted to impose their scrupulosity about man made interpretations on Christ’s disciples. But Jesus defends his disciples, exposing the hypocrisy of their critics, by using the Prophesy of Isaiah, who says how these people pay God lip service, while their hearts are far from him. Their external piety and reverence to God are all empty shows, because they teach as dogmas mere human precepts. Jesus points out with examples, how they disregard God’s commandments, while clinging to human traditions. Some of the examples given by Jesus to substantiate how the Pharisees disregard God’s commandments, in favor of their human traditions, is their justification of a person’s refusal to aid his aged parents, by declaring what he would have used to support them as korban or dedicated to God,. In this way, they close their eyes to God’s commandments that wants us to honor our father and mother (Mark 7:1-13).
Having exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and experts in the law, Jesus goes on to teach us that defilement or contamination does not come from outside (Mark 7:14-23), rather, it comes from within a person. It comes from the heart of a person. That is why, Jesus privately tells his disciples that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not from the heart, but into the stomach and passes out into the latrine. But what comes out of a person, defiles, since from the hearts, come evil thoughts, un-chastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly, Jesus concludes that these evils come from within and defile.
In this way, Jesus teaches us how to develop interior life. To please God, we have to remain united with him right from within. That is why he tells us that what emerges from within a man is what makes him impure (Mark 7:14-23). To develop our spiritual life, each of us needs to pay more attention to our interiority and work on ourselves, to avoid the things that constitute defilement of life, so as to build up life of union with God, in his Son, Jesus Christ. The spiritual teachers and writers of the church have shown us how, in various ways. It is our duty to study the works of such teachers, like Meister Eckhart, St, John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Sienna, and many others, St, Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor will teach us about the three stages of Spiritual growth, the purgative, the illuminative and the unitive.
Jesus has come to restore us to that original innocence and happiness which we enjoyed in the Garden of Eden after creation, in which we enjoyed the presence of God and his friendship.
On our own part, each of us is called to live the life of love, by adopting the ways of Jesus Christ, who teaches us how to keep God’s commandments by doing his will. Jesus challenges us to go deeper and to look at the motivations of our actions. He wants us to live by the spirit of the law by loving like him. On this note, St. James tells us today to humbly welcome the word that has taken root in us with its power to save us (James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27). Let us act on it, and not deceive ourselves by only listening to it.