Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

What comes out of us defiles/heals

24th September 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Contributing Columnist

Jesus reduced the Decalogue to two great commandments, then down to one at the Last Supper, “Love one another as I have loved you.” At the opposite pole, the Pharisees had concocted a system of 613 laws: 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws – a heartless, cold and arrogant brand of righteousness. This was a wreck waiting to happen.

The occasion for the train wreck was hunger-driven disciples of Jesus rubbing ripe wheat grains in their hands and eating the grains with unwashed hands. Seeing this, the Pharisees and Scribes complained to Jesus that his disciples did not follow the ablution traditions of the elders, but instead ate with unwashed hands.

For the first time, to their utter shock, the Pharisees encountered the unassailable conviction and moral force of Jesus in Mark 7:8, 15, “You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition… Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

Returning home, his disciples asked Jesus to clarify, and Jesus did explain it as recorded further in Mark 7, 17, 21-23, “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

One big caveat about the statement of Jesus is the biological fact that some things which enter our body from the outside can harm us, sicken and even kill us. Can you spell H1N1? Yes, in several weeks, the dreaded flu season will enter our conversation, as if the West Nile virus were not enough to trouble our recent passage through each day.

Why would Jesus not point out the obvious array of harmful things that can enter our bodies? Why would Jesus not explain that bad, toxic things — material and not — do invade the space of our mind, our nerves and our emotions through a bad environment or through the agency of bad people? Sadly, some people want to bring us down morally.

The ugly truth is told in 1 John 2:15, 16, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life — is not from the Father but from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.”

Though not mentioned by Jesus, such things do enter our awareness and the sacred, personal space of our lives, and they can poison us. This invasion takes place through our own willing eyes, ears, senses and minds, as evil people and evil segments of the media and communications take advantage of our foolish eagerness to let it in. What Jesus said remains true, with the added reflection that the evil that comes out of us had to be implanted within us in the first place after entering us through some Trojan horse disguise or our outright folly in admitting such trash into our own world.

A separate reflection is that, unless the evil/poison that is in us comes out of us, we will die, whether we are speaking about a physical toxin, a mental toxin or a spiritual toxin. That is why those unfortunate people who do not know how or refuse to vent, to share their burdens with someone sympathetic, will soon suffer sepsis of some kind.

The old folks called that “blood poisoning,” which easily transfers from the physical reality to the concept of poisoning our minds, emotions and very soul. In case you don’t know, blood poisoning, or sepsis, not infrequently results in death.

The spectacular opposite of what Jesus says is also true. Out of our mouths come blessings, prayers, thanks, praise, worship, encouragement, affirmation of others, words of like and love, admiration, joy, happiness, healing. Surely, this is a strong indication that many words and thoughts of Jesus are simply not mentioned in the New Testament.

This is exactly what we read at the end of John 21:25, “There are many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.”

Clearly, the choice is ours as to whether we will allow poisons of all kinds to enter our personal sanctuary, or whether we will keep toxins out and exude goodness.

This article originally published in the September 24, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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