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All of us live with rules, sometimes unsaid, but sometimes written down. In one house with young children, there was a piece of paper posted on the refrigerator door with the following rules.
- No hitting, pushing, kicking, shouting.
- No fighting before Mom has coffee.
- If you follow someone around asking for something over and over just to annoy her into giving it to you, she can tell you "NO" for 24 hours.
- Personal Days: Each employee will receive 104 personal days a year. They are called Saturday and Sunday.
- Sick Days: We Will No Longer Accept A Doctor's Statement As Proof Of Sickness. If You Are Able To Go To The Doctor, You Are Able To Come To Work.
Our readings today are about rules, laws, and decrees. As parents, grandparents, business owners, employers or employees, we know that rules and laws are not bad. Some rules are there for our own safety and protection. The Jewish laws about being "clean" were meant to remind them that they were God's people - chosen, set apart. So, when they went into the marketplace and mixed with all sorts of people, and perhaps touched food that had been offered to pagan gods, they "purified" themselves when they came home. But some of them got so wrapped up in the detailed rituals of cleansing themselves that they forgot the purpose of it all.
In Today’s Gospel, Jesus cuts at the root tendency to give more importance to external gestures and rites than to the heart’s disposition – that is, the desire to appear better than one is. We clearly heard today, “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”
What is coming from our hearts today? Like Jesus' time, there is much preoccupation about the exterior--physical contamination from the atmosphere, the water, the hole in the ozone layer. Yet there is almost absolute silence about interior and moral defilement that leads to the breakup of relationships and families. We become indignant on seeing marine birds emerging from contaminated waters covered with petroleum oil, yet we do not show the same concern for the unborn child in the womb or for our children soaked in muddy waters of impure images, songs and violent action games.
Much of our society prides itself on being all-knowing and greater than God. The modern world operates as if the world revolves around self. We no longer consult God in what I should do and want to do. If our self-centered world is so great, why do so many seek escape in illicit diversions, substances, pleasures?
We also know that God is within us. Again, Jesus put it very clearly, especially in John's Gospel: "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our dwelling with them." (John 14:23)
-Fr. Paul Yi