Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: 1Kngs 10:1-10
The queen of Sheba, having heard of Solomon’s fame, came to test him with subtle questions. She arrived in Jerusalem with a very numerous retinue, and with camels bearing spices, a large amount of gold, and precious stones. She came to Solomon and questioned him on every subject in which she was interested. King Solomon explained everything she asked about, and there remained nothing hidden from him that he could not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters, his banquet service, and the burnt offerings he offered in the temple of the LORD, she was breathless. “The report I heard in my country about your deeds and your wisdom is true,” she told the king. “Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes, I have discovered that they were not telling me the half. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard. Blessed are your men, blessed these servants of yours, who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom. Blessed be the LORD, your God, whom it has pleased to place you on the throne of Israel. In his enduring love for Israel, the LORD has made you king to carry out judgment and justice.” Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty gold talents, a very large quantity of spices, and precious stones. Never again did anyone bring such an abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
Gospel: Mk 7:14-23
Jesus 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.” When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? 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.”
THAT WE MAY SERVE HIM IN HOLINESS AND JUSTICE, ALL THE DAYS OF OUR LIFE: The religion of the Pharisees and scribes gave importance to the external observances like ritual purifications and strict Sabbath observation. This was done at the expense of fundamental Divine commandments of love. Jesus challenges this attitude and abrogates the Mosaic Law regarding food and purification. He gives the new norm of the Kingdom of God. It is not the external observation or the food that one eats that determines the spiritual life of a person, but rather the internal life. Spiritual life is a matter of personal relationship with God, fellow human beings and the rest of creation. It is a matter of worshipping God in Spirit and truth (Jn 4:23). Do I give undue importance to the external observance at the cost of true internal moral life? Am I in touch with my inner being?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to cleanse and purify my heart, that I may see you as you are and live as you want.
HOW TO HARNESS OUR THOUGHTS: We need broad, smooth roads to ease our fast paced travels, yet need great mental highways to ease one another’s life. Jesus calls the disciples dumb, lacking in the common sense needed to understand the obvious. Why this hypocritical insistence on what one consumes or how he does it? The weightier matter is what emerges from the heart. It is that which makes or mars a person. A certain mental hygiene is what Jesus stresses. When we allow our hearts to be overcrowded with unhealthy, evil thoughts, we reap a harvest of ills. It does not take great brains to understand that evil germinates in our mind. Evil begins as an unworthy thought. On giving it thought-space and time, it matures and yields action. Words then leave the mouth. When repeated severally, they become a reality and construct identity. The result is full-blown evil. The very long line of evils that Jesus places before us today, is headed by evil thought. Let us be on our guard against this process.
ESSENCE OF A CLEAN HEART: The human heart is a unique store house of thoughts, ideas and feelings. What we see in a person’s attitude, words and actions- is the manifestation of what is within. A heart that is full of love leads to a life that manifests love in its noblest expressions. A heart full of malice leads to a life that functions as an agent of evil powers. An African proverb says that, “If you keep your head and heart going in the direct direction, you won’t have to worry about your feet.” Ultimately, each person holds the responsibility to the state of one’s heart. One can never be an agent of evil unless he consents to it directly or indirectly. God helps us in our struggles. The more you depend on God for your growth, the more you will be able to make yourself free from malicious thoughts and deeds!