No, not the Gospel according to your humble blogger but the Gospel of the actual apostle named Mark.
Today at my church I did a reading from the Gospel according to Mark as it was Morning Prayer and a lay minister could do the Gospel reading.
For some reason, this Gospel really struck me on several levels. It is about the Pharisees and the purity and dietary laws and Jesus' retort of it does not defile a person what goes into their mouth but what comes out of the mouth.
So, here is the reading:
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, the noticed that some of his disciples. were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them (For the Pharisees, and all of the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders, and the do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it;-and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles). So the Pharisees and the scribes and asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" He said to them, 'Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
"This people honours me with their lips.
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.'
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, 'Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.
Like I said, there is so much in this reading to think about for Christians and non-Christians alike.
It seems so natural for us to wash our hands before touching food. To wash the dishes each time we use them. We think about doing this not just to be clean but to kill germs. But what we do not think about is that this tradition came from Judaism. So it was Surprising that Jesus Christ, a Jew, did not tell some of the disciples that they should clean their hands. The Pharisees and the scribes noticed this. They called Jesus out on this.
Jesus Christ's response is so epic. It is condemning tradition without meaning. Way back before this time, there was no set tradition of cleanliness. The laws of Leviticus began all of this. Keep in mind that Jesus was not about throwing out all the laws but emphasizing the laws that the religious authorities of the time were forgetting.
That is loving your neighbor as you love yourself and the Lord God with your mind, body and soul.
But the great litany of awfulness that can come out from one's mind and eventually mouth is astounding. We have all, without a doubt, committed at least one of the 13 acts Jesus describes as defiling a person. And some have probably at one time or another completed the list. Knowingly or unknowingly. I don't think most people set out to be bad. But it's when people forget that there is real evil in the world, it is when one can rationalize committing such evil acts.
Sometimes in our attempt to help and or to hold a fellow Christian accountable, we are huge on the judgement. Again, we act like we have never said something or committed a bad act. One of the easiest things is to be envious of other people. We think we are not as good looking as someone else. Or that we do not have what another has. And so on and so forth. We need to take the self-inventory of what we DO have. How we are fortunate not to have some horrible facial condition. And so on and so forth.
What Jesus is really saying is that it's the bad thoughts that we have that we need to worry about and not some purity laws. Clean hands do not necessarily equal a clean heart.
That is the power of this reading. That is the Gospel according to Mark.