“[W]hat comes out of the man, that is what defiles him” (Mk 7:20).
Jesus offers a list in today’s gospel of what can be unleashed from within and then directed out toward another. These are examples of what defile us, because at some level, we make the decision to think about, speak, and put into action those thoughts, words, and actions.
To resist the temptation to defile ourselves and others, we can follow the lead of the writer from the letter to the Hebrews who offered a wonderful verse, which I pray every morning in my recitation of the Office: “Encourage each other daily while it is still today” (Hebrews 3:13). There are many that we will encounter or hear about each day that are going to do the exact opposite.
May our goal each moment be to resist spending any time or energy in supporting any thoughts, words, or actions that demean, belittle, or dehumanize. We can call those out who do so, stand up for those impoverished from these attacks who do not have a voice, but must not succumb, engage, or in any way be lowered to the negativity unleashed. Otherwise we become an agent in perpetuating the same vileness and poison already unleashed.
Our thoughts, words, and actions matter because we are all interconnected, and even what we ruminate on can be projected on our faces and directed out toward another, without saying one word. Thoughts entertained can lead to words and actions that wound. We need to approach each day more mindfully such that we resist reacting, and instead think and pray about our response. The only time our silence can be harmful, is when we refuse to convict others when they disregard the dignity of a person.
Let us choose this day to align our thoughts, words, and actions with those of Jesus. We can follow St Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s five finger gospel as a reminder: “You did it to me.” What we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to Jesus (cf. Mt 25:35-45). May we resist defiling ourselves by never letting evil talk pass our lips and instead think, speak, and act in ways that empower, convict, and build up others. May we choose to forgive the negativity hurled at us, and meet it with a posture of compassion that seeks to understand the perspective of the hurler. May we call on the help and strength of Jesus as we strive to become servants of his transforming love.
Photo: St Mother Teresa of Calcutta, in main sanctuary at St Peter Catholic Church