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Wednesday – Fifth Week – OT1
Readings: Gen 2:5-9, 15-17; Mk 7:14-23.
1/ Reading I: NAB Genesis 2:5 while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the LORD God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil, 6 but a stream was welling up out of the earth and was watering all the surface of the ground– 7 the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. 8 Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. 15 The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. 16 The LORD God gave man this order: “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden 17 except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”
2/ Gospel: NAB Mark 7:14 He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. 15 Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” 16) 17 When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. 18 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, 19 since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus, he declared all foods clean.) 20 “But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. 21 From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. 23 All these evils come from within, and they defile.”
I. THEME: What defiles people?
Some people think when one lives or contacts with sinner, because there is an idiom, “Evil communications corrupt good manner”; or: “He that lives down with dogs must rise up with fleas.” But this can happen, not necessary to happen. For example, the perfect man though he lives closed to mud but doesn’t smell like mud. This is true for Jesus when he searched for tax collectors and prostitutes to heal them while the scribes and the Pharisees condemned him as a sinner like them.
Today readings concentrate on the theme, “What defiles people?” In the first reading, the author gives another report on creation. God created a man and put him in the garden which He already set up. God gives him a command, “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.” This commandment shall lead to the man’s fall in a few days when he disobeys God. This obedience causes the man to recognize his wicked sin. In the Gospel, the Jewish tradition regards those who don’t carefully keep the purified laws as sinners. However, Jesus disregarded this tradition when he declared that only things which come out of man’s heart and mind defile him.
1/ Reading I: We have two accounts of creation. Today reading belongs to the second account, the Yahweh account. The author reported this account as followed, “while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil, but a stream was welling up out of the earth and was watering all the surface of the ground–the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed.”
1.1/ The differences between the two accounts of the creation, P and J: If one pays attention to the name of God, one can see that the authors called God with different names. In the first account in chapter one, the author called God as “Elohim.” This belongs to the priestly tradition, P. They consider God as powerful and separated from His creatures; whatever God wants to have, He only need to say, “Let have!” In the second account, chapter 2, the author God called God as “Yahveh.” This belongs to the J tradition, who considers God as the intimate one with His creatures. He tumbled among them to create as a builder builds his house. The desciption of J is more lively and concrete than P. J concentrates on the earth and human beings, not on the cosmos and God’s divinity as P.
According to content of J, the creation is the introduction to the Fall which is the result of the gradually withdrawing of human beings from God. All of these are the introduction to the stories of the forefathers. Ultimately, they prepared for God’s delivery of the Israelites in the Exodus event. Therefore, the reports of P and J are the beginning of the history of the salvation.
Like P, the author wanted to emphasize that all things are created by God. He “formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” This way is different with other creatures because human life is the God’s breath. According to Hebrew, man “adam” and earth “adamah” have the same root and relation. Man comes from the earth (v.7); uses it for living (v.5b) and shall return to the earth (v.3:19)
1.2/ God commands the man:
(1) Is there one or two trees in the midst of the Garden? The author reported, “Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” According to this verse, there are two trees in the middle of the Garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. We shall return to these two trees in the fall of human beings.
(2) God’s commandment: God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the gardenexcept the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.” We can clearly see that the happiness which one may have is to obey God’s commandment. Sin and death happen when people disobey God and follow their own wills.
2/ Gospel: People are confused between outside cleanness and inside righteousness.
2.1/ Jewish tradition about purification: They believed purification is important, not only for an outside sanitation but also for inside purification which is necessary to offer offerings to God. For examples, if a priest touched a dead body, he is no longer clean to offer offerings. Eating unclean food defiles the whole body.
2.2/ Jesus’ teaching on holiness:
(1) Jesus differentiated between outside dirtiness and inside wickedness: Jesus explained: “Hear me, all of you, and understand:There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him… since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?”
Mark carefully used two Greek nouns: “kardia” for heart and “koilia” for stomach. The unclean food can’t defile people because it can’t enter people’s heart (mind); it can only enter their stomach and was expelled outside through people’s intestine. Unclean food can cause sickness in body, not moral sins.
(2) Inside wickedness causes more damages for people: Jesus continued: “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery,coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”
Jesus warned them that God, who understands all thoughts in their mind. They can’t deceive Him by their shallow observation of outside purification laws. Many times in the Old Testaments and the New Testament, God said to people that the offerings He prefers, not expensive offerings or ceremonies, but a repentant mind and a heart that wants to do God’s will.
Jesus’ explanation reversed the value which they held for a long time. They were angry because Jesus invalidated their purification laws. It is very difficult for them to accept Jesus’ explanation because many of them were ready to die for these laws. For example, the Maccabees’ seven brothers accepted death instead of eating swine’s meat, the unclean animal.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– What defile people aren’t food, environment or making friends with sinners, but people’s wicked thoughts and deeds.
– We can’t deceive God by outside ceremonies and laws because He can see all things that happen in our souls.