The Evil in our Hearts

7 February 2007 Wednesday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 7, 14-23 The evil things that comes from the heart

Have you ever wondered why there is no food restriction at least for Catholics? There is no law in the church that prohibits us from eating pork (of course, the rules on abstinence is a different story), or pork blood, etc. By declaring that nothing from the outside can defile a person and that which comes from the heart is what defiles, Jesus changed the laws on ritual food restrictions (we have to distinguish food restrictions for health reasons).

Jesus lists some things that come from the heart of people and thus making a person unclean.

First, evil designs (dialogismoi). Every outward act of sin is preceded by an inward act of choice. In other words, evil actions come from evil thoughts. Fornication, thefts, murders, malicious gossip are examples of these.

Second, covetous deeds (pleonexiai). Pleonexia comes from two Greek words meaning to have more. It has been defined as “the spirit which snatches at that which it is not right to take” and “the baneful appetite for that which belongs to others.” Thus it is the spirit which snatches at things, the appetite or desire for acquire money and things. This includes our addictions to fame, popularity and power.

Third, evil deeds. The Greek word used is poneros. Poneros is a man in whose heart there is the desire to harm. Poneros — the Evil One — is the title of Satan. The worst of people, is the person who is doing Satan’s work. It is the man himself, being bad himself, makes others as bad as himself. In common jargon, we call that person BI (Bad Influence). Those that lead others to sin.

Fourth is envy. Envy is literally the evil eye. The eye that looks on the success and happiness of others, in such a way, that it would cast an evil spell upon it if it could. In other words, envy makes it impossible for a person to be happy for the fortunes of others.

Finally, pride (huperephania). The Greek words literally means, “showing oneself above.” It describes the attitude of someone who has a certain contempt for everyone except himself. The interesting things about this word, as the Greeks used it, is that it describes an attitude that may never become public. Thus, a proud people may look humble and simple, but in their heart compare themselves to others; and gloating on how good they are of others. This is, I think, the challenge of the educated. Often we think that our plans alone, our views alone, are always the best, and should therefore be followed.

The Greeks have a story. The Greek giants, the sons of Tartarus and Ge, in their pride sought to storm heavens and were cast down by Hercules. That is pride. It is setting oneself up against God. But it is not just the Greeks, we also have a story of pride. The story of the Tower of Babel is a story of pride. The people in ancient times believe that God resides in the physical heavens. To reach that place, they wanted to build a tower that could reach the heavens. They thought that they could set themselves at par with God. This is pride. Often we act as if we are gods.

Each of us has a “doctorate degree” on any of these things listed by Jesus. We are experts in one or more of these areas — including myself. Let us therefore reflect on the times when these things operate in our lives, so that we will be able to handle them when its evil head begins to show. We pray that God help us in purifying ourselves.

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