View all Gospel Reflections |
True Understanding of the Heart
Memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin
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.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Jesus, today you are inviting me to hear you and to understand. Open my ears to your voice and my heart to your truth. Purify my heart so that it can receive all the goodness which with you desire to fill me. Your words and promises to me are sweet, and truly satisfy my soul, if I am open to receiving them. “How sweet to my tongue is your promise, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalms 119:103). Help me to put aside any worry, distraction, or fear in your providence and be still in your presence.
- Attentiveness and Understanding: How fascinating and humbling that God became a man and then asked us to pay attention to his words. God never forces his messages upon us nor does he demand our attention. He desires our free and open response, for only with that can he work in our lives with generosity and love. He turned to the crowds and to his followers, asking them to listen closely. Here, now, in this moment of prayer, Jesus is also inviting us to listen closely to his words in Scripture and also to his words in the silence of our hearts, the circumstances of our lives, and even the suffering we experience today. Are we listening?
- Jesus Seeks to Nourish Us: The Jewish people had many rules about almost all aspects of life, including food. Certain foods were clean, others unclean. Foods also needed to be prepared and eaten in a certain way. Such an ordinary part of life was raised to the level of religious practice and became a matter of individual righteousness. Jesus wanted to restore the image of God’s goodness and providence. From the moment of creation, God gave us everything to enjoy as a gift and to care for as its stewards. Jesus wants us to enjoy all that God has provided for us, down to the food we eat, so that we can be nourished and not scrupulous. How easy it is to sometimes put certain things into categories of “good” or “bad” based on subjective opinions. This Gospel is an invitation to see all of creation with God’s eyes and to use his gifts wisely.
- The Heart of the Matter: Clearly, the point of the passage is not what should be eaten for dinner. Rather, it is about something much deeper and very precious to Jesus: the human heart. Jesus came to establish his kingdom, not with armies or castles, but through grace and conversion of the human heart. He sees the evil we sometimes do–unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly–and he passionately desires to enter and possess each person’s heart, so that he can transform it into a vessel of his love and light. Yet, he cannot enter without our consent. He stands outside our inner door and knocks softly, waiting for us to open the door and allow him in.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I want to sit at your feet and allow you to teach me today about what is most important to you. You are interested in entering my heart— purifying it and transforming it for your glory. Jesus, please enter my heart now. Show me what is really there and make it like yours in all things.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will carry you with me in my heart. Grant me the grace to listen to you, not only in this time of prayer but all throughout my day. May your words teach me to see my day through your eyes and to focus on what is most important.
For Further Reflection: Six Tools for the Scrupulous, National Catholic Register.
Kathleen Almon is a consecrated woman with Regnum Christi who is originally from Texas. She has served youth and families in Mexico, the United States, and Canada, in schools as well as in ECYD and Regnum Christi sections.