Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(I Kings 10:1-10; Mark 7:14-23)
Often a store purveying pornography is located outside of town in an isolated area. One may feel a touch of pity for the owners of the one or two cars that the store attracts, day or night. What a pity, one may say, that the men have to pollute themselves in this way! But are the men really committing sin by viewing pornography? The gospel today seems to hint otherwise.
In the passage Jesus makes the startling statement that “everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile.” Of course, Jesus is referring to food in this context, but even then it might be asked how eating meat on a Lenten Friday could be sinful. Carefully analyzing Jesus’ words, experts have concluded that they are invented by Mark to defend the practice of the non-Jewish Christian communities who eat pork and other foods that Jewish law forbids. It is simply wrong-minded to think of the statement as applying to Church prohibition today of eating meat on certain days of the year and much less to natural law’s proscription of pornography.
The Second Vatican Council legitimates the conclusion of Biblical scholars that the gospels must be read as the end products of a forty to sixty process. First, there are the actual words and actions of Jesus. These are repeated and reformulated by the apostles in proclaiming Jesus as Lord in different places. Finally, they are reserved for posterity in a written narrative by the evangelists writing on behalf of the communities where they live. We have their words to ponder and to use to mold our lives. At times we may feel that our individual interpretation will never have it right. But praying over the readings and paying attention to different commentaries, we will find our understanding not only nearing target but leading us to truly fruitful lives.