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.”
When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
In this reading, Jesus is again using a parable as a means of teaching a lesson about the power of our interior lives. And we see in this particular parable, that after the lesson, the disciples once again need a follow up session on what it all meant. Jesus responds by saying to his followers, “Are even you likewise without understanding?”
From his response, I imagine Jesus in this scene feeling a bit frustrated, kind of like- “Come on you guys! You are with me all the time! Aren’t you catching on even a little to what this is all about?”
And, as I imagine all of this, I can even find myself feeling a bit smug, like “what’s wrong with those guys anyway?”, until I, too, consider all of the times and ways that Jesus needs to bring me back to teach me the same lessons over and over about how to best tend, grow and flourish in God in my interior life as well!
Over the past decades in my spiritual growth, Jesus has been a patient and persistent teacher with me, helping me develop a healthy disposition towards tending, growing, maintaining, and protecting my interior life. Jesus has invited me to study and use wise tools of discernment to assist in decision-making, commit to the disciplines of study, prayer and worship, spiritual direction, and service, and Jesus has accompanied me in making the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, teaching me how to know, love and follow him more closely in my daily living and loving.
I remember, once again, while praying through this parable, that my interior life needs healthy nourishing, care and protection just like the rest of my life. My heart, soul and spirit, my identity and choices related to how I will live, love and serve while following God’s call are all rooted in the fruits and roots of my interior life.
Through this parable, Jesus wisely warns me that what I put in to grow and sustain my interior life will be represented in the way I live my life each day. Jesus generously calls his disciples, and me, back to the reality that an untended and ungrounded interior life can have the power to “defile” us.
It is only in orienting our minds, hearts and souls to that which is of God, that we can rest in knowing the interior soil of our life is fertile enough to grow the loving fruits of God’s spirit within us. We can further rest in knowing that those fruits are meant to be shared in love with all we meet.
—Kathy Coffey-Guenther, Ph.D., is senior mission and Ignatian leadership specialist at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.
The Gifts Examen, based on Galatians 5:22
This is a way to pray the Examen in order to foster growth and enactment in virtue. We begin with the fruits of the Holy Spirit:
Thursday- Kindness and Goodness
Saturday- Gentleness and Self-Control
In the evening, when you are making your usual Examen prayer, thank God for the gifts of the day, and ask God to help you honestly bring an appreciative awareness to the day. Notice where you found God and where you may have turned from God.
Then explore, with God’s grace. how you lived out the day’s virtue. Pay attention to opportunities you were given to enact today’s virtue and how you responded to those opportunities… Accept and respond or reject and react?
Ask God’s forgiveness and healing as you need and look to tomorrow in anticipation of opportunities to enact the next day’s virtue.
Close with an Our Father or a Glory Be.
—Fr. Joe Tetlow, SJPlease share the Good Word with your friends!