Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17
Psalm 104:1-2, 27-30
The things that come out from within are what defile. (Mark 7:15)
Did you know that the saying, “You are what you eat” is a variation of the old French proverb, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”? While modern science would say this is true in a nutritional sense, some historians believe that it was also part of the spiritual foundation of the Jewish dietary laws—also known as the kashrut, or kosher laws.
One part of the kashrut determines that the Jewish people must eat only certain ruminant animals—animals that derive most of their food from plants. The ruminants that are considered kosher tend to be gentle, domesticated animals that are not predatory by nature. The thought was that by eating of these gentle creatures, you would absorb some of their gentleness. By the same token, refraining from eating predatory animals would keep you from taking in these species’ aggressive, violent natures.
So if the tradition of kashrut has such a noble background, why did Jesus take exception to it? Part of the answer may come from the way some Jews of his day took excessive pride in their ability to follow these laws. Jesus rebuked them for worrying so much about which kinds of foods would make them unclean while paying so little attention to their words and actions—things that actually did defile them and the people around them. He longed to see them put a higher priority on their words and actions.
Today’s Gospel offers us the opportunity to reflect on our own choices. Are we paying too much attention to the outside, to how rigorously we follow traditions? Or are we keeping an eye on the inside, our thoughts, words, and actions, so that we can have a positive rather than a negative impact?
Mercifully, God offers us a solution: receiving Jesus in the Eucharist can help us absorb his nature—and it can give us the grace to overcome our sinful thoughts and actions.
“Lord, help me remember that receiving you in the Eucharist has the power to transform my heart and lift me out of my sin. Help me to absorb your nature so that I can become clean inside and out.”~WAU