Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cuida Bien Tu Corazón

"...They noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them..." (Mark 7:2)

In the year (a long time ago) when I taught religion to high school seniors at Bishop McGuinness High School in Oklahoma City, I was privileged to work alongside a wonderful colleague teacher, Maxine Stank. She and her husband, Joe, had several kids, among whom was their 7 or 8 year old boy, Tommy. Maxine shared the story of how she'd asked Tommy to wash his hands before dinner one evening. After he did so Maxine did the "mother thing" and checked on them, only to find that Tommy's hands were still a bit grimy. She sent him back for a rewash, explaining that dirt carried germs and that germs could make him sick. Tommy's response: "Jesus and germs: that's all you hear about, but you can't see either one of them!"

Most of us parent types surely have had similar situations. In fact, how many times did we hear it ourselves before becoming parents?! Surely Jesus and his disciples weren't questioning the validity of the venerable Mosaic tradition of washing hands before eating. Think, for example, of how many people in the world today have to carry enough water miles and miles in order to take care of their life's simplest needs. To be sure, in many cases the water which they bring home is used for much more important things than for washing their hands.

In the Gospel Jesus is trying to teach his hearers the art of discerning what is essential in life. He wants us to think seriously about our priorities. And so Jesus dares to call "hypocrites" those who, making it their business to keep tabs on other people's failings, interrupt his teaching, questioning his disciples', and undoubtedly his own, practice. How easy it is to pay lip service to God in order to be respected in society, and at the same time, in our hearts, to glibly pass judgment on others! How easy it is to observe the "tradition of the elders", all the while forgetting love! Our forebears have told us: "Take good care of your heart." The same heart out of which come jealousy and greed, hatred and evil thoughts, also has the capacity to bestow love and blessing.

When I look into my heart, am I moved to repent? to profoundly reconsider my priorities? to change?

"Cuida bien tu corazón. -- Take good care of your heart."

(A translated paraphrase of "Vigésimo Segundo Domingo del Tiempo Ordinario" by Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, in Un Añ0 de Domingos: Relexiones de los Evangelios, 2009, Estudio Biblico de Little Rock)

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