Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(I Kings 10:1-10; Mark 7:14-23)
As we prepare for Lent, we might ask ourselves the following questions: How can the Church’s prohibition of eating meat on Lenten Fridays be justified in light of today’s gospel? If Jesus really meant that “’that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,’” how can it be a sin for a Catholic to eat meat on a Lenten Friday?
There is some doubt whether Jesus actually made a statement to the effect that Jews could eat non-kosher foods. More likely -- many scholars say -- the words were added to Jesus’ teaching on sins of the heart. After all, the evangelist Mark wrote for a primarily non-Jewish community who had to be reassured that they did not have to follow Jewish dietary laws.
It is also true that what defiles a person is not simply the act of eating pork or shellfish but the defiance of God’s authority. For this reason Jesus does condemn arrogance in this same passage. Considering the action in this way legitimizes the Church’s capacity to bind its members on matters such as fasting and attending mass.
It is also likely that we often think much differently than Jesus. We are usually concerned about doing the minimal amount to achieve our goal. So we ask, “Is abstinence necessary?” Or, “How about confession; do I have to go if I have not committed any mortal sins?” Jesus, on the other hand, wants us to love God with all hearts. Living in his way, we will likely abstain from more than meat on Lenten Fridays, and avail ourselves of confessions more than the Church-mandated once a year. We will readily make sacrifices of time and energy to know him better.