“But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile” (Mk 7:20-23).
We unfortunately see the words of Jesus today on full display in our country, on almost every level imaginable, politically, culturally, and religiously. What Jesus is calling for from his hearers then and us today is not to look or act the part, but to actually live a life with a heart dedicated to God with humility and integrity.
May we resist the temptation to be despondent or give in to despair, may we also resist contributing to the negativity that seems to have a megaphone right now. There are many people doing very good things, living their lives quietly and faithfully. Let us do the same. May we follow the guidance of St James and “put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in [us] and is able to save [our] souls” (James 1:21).
May we resist being shaped and conformed to the present culture of division, polarization and death, and instead be willing to be transformed by the renewal of our minds that we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (cf. Romans 12:2). To do so, may we turn our hearts and minds over to Jesus this day so that he will renew them with his love and grace.
Let us align ourselves with the will of our heavenly Father through examining our conscience and discerning with Jesus such that we come to know that which is truly good, pleasing and perfect, so that we may cloak ourselves in the mantle of integrity. May we be willing to hold ourselves and others accountable with justice and mercy by standing up for the dignity of the person in each and every situation.
We are not to be hearers of the word only but doers of the word. For: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:26-27). Putting our faith into action means we are challenged to resist standing by silently witnessing or worse participating in the poison of gossip or engaging in demeaning, belittling, or dehumanizing words and/or actions. Instead, we are to shine a light of truth in the darkness.
We do so by putting the guidance we hear and read from Scripture into practice, we speak truth to power no matter who the person is because we serve Jesus not a political party. We are to stand up for each other with understanding and compassion and offer opportunities for reconciliation. We will be a guiding light when we keep our self in check, continue to be willing to have our heart and mind conformed to Jesus, meditate and pray daily, commit to respecting the dignity of each person we encounter within our homes and in our realms of influence such that what we think, the words that we speak, as well as our deeds, affirm, convict not condemn, empower, and heal.