Reading (1 Kings 10:1-10)†† Gospel (St. Mark 7:14-23)
Our Lord tells us today that it is from within the heart that come the things which will defile us. And so it is all the evil things that we have stored up within. This is why it is so critically important that we are willing to open our hearts and allow Our Lord into our hearts in prayer, so that these things can be purified, so that they can be removed from within us. But, of course, the problem we all face is that we are afraid to look at these things. They are not pleasant. We do not like to think of ourselves in ways that are not good, and we do not like to have to deal with this stuff. Yet, at the same time, if we realize that this is really there, why would we want to keep it there?
Sometimes people like to keep it there because they like the sin, but that is not a good reason if we are going to claim to be Christian people. If we are going to be followers of the Lord, we have to get rid of everything that is not of God. We realize that to open our hearts means that all of those wounds in there are going to be exposed, but those need to be healed also, because if they are not, what we do is keep Jesus at an armís distance. We do not allow Him into our hearts and we do not love Him with our hearts because we are afraid to let Him in, we are afraid we are going to get hurt, and we are afraid He is going to tell us that we have to change our lives.
Well, He is not going to hurt us; we can be guaranteed of that. He will tell us to change our lives; we can be guaranteed of that too. But it does not necessarily mean external changes, because many of us are pretty good at hiding these ugly things that are inside and so the external parts seem to be pretty good. But it is what is on the inside that needs to change. The dispositions, the desires, the attitudes, all of these sorts of things need to change. In doing so, of course, the external things will change to some degree. We will be far more peaceful, we will be more gentle, we will be more charitable, and all these different virtues that we need to work on.
The fact of the matter is that if any of these ugly things are inside, they are going to be causing us problems. Even if we do not act on them externally, they are still there. For instance, Our Lord talks about unchastity. If there is an individual that has an unchaste spirit inside, what happens? It does not mean that he is going to commit adultery, but it means that he may be looking at persons of the opposite sex in an inappropriate way. It may mean that he is desiring somebody in an inappropriate way. It does not mean he is actually going to do something physically, but you can see the disposition. It is playing with fire. It is not good because if we are going to allow those things to be there, number one, there is a possibility that we might act on it; and, number two, we have to recognize that these things are sins in and of themselves. It may not be as big of a sin as if we actually carried out what the desire might be, but the fact is that these things are in and of themselves sinful Ė and they need to go.
We are called to be holy. We are not called to look holy. We are not called to act holy. We are called to be holy. That is what God wants from us. We need to get rid of everything that will defile us, everything that strips us of holiness, and that is what comes from the heart. That is why we need to be willing to open our hearts in prayer. We need to face the painful things and the ugly things that are in there because Our Lord wants to make our hearts similar to His and there is nothing ugly in His heart. There is nothing there that is painful, so we have to work on the wounds so they can heal. We need to get rid of these things that defile us, so that we can be truly holy, so that the things which come from within are things of Christ. In this way, we will not only act holy, but we will truly be holy. Then we will have true freedom.
If we do not allow the Lord into our hearts and we keep all of these things in, we are slaves to all of these things. We do not have control over them. The dispositions and the attitudes and the desires, they are going to pop up whether you want them to be there or not. But if we can work on them and get rid of them, then we are free. We are no longer slaves to these ugly things that are within. So it is all to our benefit. Not only do we get rid of the things that defile us, but it gives us a more pure heart so that we can love God and love neighbor more perfectly, so that we can be at peace, and so that we can have the fulfillment for which we were created, so that we can be the persons God made us to be.
That is what occurs if we are willing to let Him in. That is why we need to come before Him every single day and sit ourselves down before Him in prayer and open our hearts and let Him in, so that He can heal us and purify us so that we can love more perfectly.
*† This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.†††††††