Wednesday, February 9, 2011

All that glisters is not gold

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23)

Gospel text (Mk 7:14-23): Jesus then called the people to him again and said to them, «Listen to me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters one from out­side can make that person unclean. It is what comes out from within that makes un­clean. Let everyone who has ears listen».

When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about this saying and he replied, «So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean? Since it enters, not the heart but the stomach and is finally passed out». Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean. And he went on, «What comes out of a person is what defiles, for evil designs come out of the heart: theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean».

Today, Jesus teaches us that God made everything good. But our intentions —which are not always right— may contaminate what we do. This is why Jesus Christ says: «Nothing that enters one from out­side can make that person unclean. It is what comes out from within that makes un­clean» (Mk 7:15). The experience of the offence against God is very real. And we Christians can easily discover the evil's deep mark in a sin's enslaved world. The mission Jesus charges us with, is to clean —with the help of His grace— all this contamination men's bad intentions have spread all over the world.

The Lord wants all our activities to be carried out well: He expects us to show in them intensity, method, science, know-how, eagerness for perfection, not looking for anything else but reinstating God's plan for Creation. For God made everything for man's benefit: «Purity of intention. —You will always have it if, in everything you do, you only look forward to pleasing God» (Saint Josemaria).

Looking at any religion, we see a number of rites and practices designed and instituted to help the participants grow in faith. It is very evident in our own Catholic faith. We go to Mass and Reconciliation, as well as fasting and almsgiving. Christ cautions us not to belittle these things. We can easily get caught up in passing judgment on who is or isn’t fulfilling the requirements of faith, but in doing this we become like the Pharisees. However, if we look at these requirements as tools of faith we can begin to understand their true purpose. Traditions in the church are more than just simple actions. They are practices used to guide our hearts and attitudes, making us more open to the Lord.

I know I sometimes feel as if I am only, “going through the motions.” In these times, I leave Mass feeling no different from when I entered. However, when I take the time to recognize that each part of the service is designed to draw me in and place me closer to the Lord, then I can truly grow and take advantage of the grace He offers in the Eucharist. Then I can leave the church with the knowledge that God loves me and desires me to be close to him. The challenge left by the Gospel is to engage our faith. Allow the soul to connect with tradition, and faith will become as alive as the Garden of Eden.

Only our will can spoil the Divine Plan. And we must watch that this is not so. Quite often we let in vanity, pride, despondency for lack of faith, impatience when our aims are not attained... This is why saint Gregory the Great warned us: «Be not seduced by any flattering prosperity, for only the foolish traveler stops along the way to admire the beautiful landscape while forgetting where he is heading for».

It will, therefore, be convenient to pay attention to how we offer our deeds to God, to always be aware of His presence and to frequently consider the Divine Filiation. Thus, all our days—through work and prayer— will be fortified and begin in our Lord, and whatever we start in his name will reach its desired ending.

For we can make great things if we realize that each one of our human actions is a co-redeemer when joined to deeds and actions of Christ.

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