By divine election, the people of Israel became the Lord’s treasured possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19:5-6). In their contact with other peoples, especially at the time of Captivity, there was a real danger of being assimilated by other nations in terms of culture and religion. Hence, the religious leaders of Israel tried to maintain the purity of the people by prohibiting mixed marriage with non-Israelites and by ordering strict observance of the Sabbath and the kashrut laws. The Jews could only eat kosher or “ritually clean” food as provided in chapter 11 of Leviticus. However, for Jesus, true worship of God does not emanate from outside but from within the human person. It is what comes out of the heart that defiles a person. The heart is the arena of conflict. “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). It is important, then, to decipher the matters of the heart, for in the heart dwell feelings, emotions, desires, and passions that flow into action, be it good or evil.
FIRST READING • Gn 2:4b-9, 15-17
At the time when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens—while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil, but a stream was welling up out of the earth and was watering all the surface of the ground—the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.
Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. The Lord God gave the man this order: “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”
Source: “365 Days with the Lord 2023,” St. Paul’s, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.