In our daily prayers God was every manner of image and metaphor and meaning, and always, "God the Father." We never ever prayed to "God our Mother." What were women in the economy of God? The answer was only too painful: We were invisible. I had given my life to a God who did not see me, did not include me, did not touch my nature with God's own....Joan Chittister, "Called to Question"

Monday, September 3, 2012

Proper 17B

A reflection on the Proper 17B: Mark 7:1-23, by the Rev. Dr. Katherine Godby
7Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them.3(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
8You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
14Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”  21For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
I’ve always loved this passage.  I read it as a confirmation of my own intense inner work.  And yet today I find myself a bit uncomfortable with that reading.
I’m quick to recognize how others (politicians lately, in particular) seem to have so little integrity.  When Jesus quoted Isaiah, saying “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me,” my mind immediately goes to self-identified Christian political leaders who profess the love of Jesus even while, through the policies they support, they make the lives of so many people (women, the LGBTQ community, racial minorities, the elderly, and prisoners locked away without benefit of trial) more difficult, less decent, than need be.
That’s not love.
Love includes a real desire for others to flourish.  Admittedly, this is often difficult and complex, but it’s certainly not accomplished through policies that make it harder for people to live decent lives, free from sexism, heterosexism, racism and the like. 
Oh, I’m quick to recognize that kind of disingenuous rhetoric and behavior.  I’m attuned to it. 
And yet today as I write, I find myself in a too-rare mood to look at my own disingenuous behavior.  I’m thinking mostly of how I, too, am quick to honor God with my lips, but allow the busyness of my days to take precedent over quiet time, over intentional daily prayer, over completing the Examen daily, as I promised myself and God that I would.  Does defiling evil come from this?  I’m sure it does, in a way, because it leaves more space inside me for the things that are not of God—more space for my own fears to take hold and tempt me toward pride or deceit, etc. 
Don’t worry, this is not a “tell-all” confession!  It’s simply a brief word about how this passage has opened up something important for me.  My desire to be authentic and conscious is deep and strong.  But Jesus’ words remind me of just how perilous the inner journey toward uncovering God’s image within me can be.  I know I’m not alone in my too-frequent desire to “look good” to others, the desire to counter fear by sticking to rules and tired traditions because it happens to benefit us in some way—at the expense of freedom and truth and beauty, the desire to take the easy way out by telling ourselves that it’s OK to skip those moments in the day spent devoted to listening for God. Thank God for the grace that surrounds us all. 

1 comment:

Terri said...

Katherine, so true! the struggle. I neither want to have disregard for my appearance nor do I want to be governed by the need to look "good" or "right" or.. I just want to look like me. I too am attuned to disengenuous behavior/rhetoric, lacking an honest, core connection...thank you for this,