Daily Readings for Mass.
(Liturgical Calendar for Ireland, 2019)

13 February. Wednesday, Week 5

1st Reading: Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17

God creates Adam and sets him in the garden to cultivate it

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was nobody to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground, then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."

Psalm 103:1-2, 27-30

Response: Bless the Lord, my soul.

Bless the Lord my soul.
  Lord God, how great you are,
  clothed in majesty and glory,
  wrapped in light as in a robe. (R./)

All of these look to you
  to give them their food in due season.
You give it, they gather it up:
  you open your hand, they have their fill. (R./)

You take back your spirit, they die,
  returning from the dust from which they came.
You send forth your spirit, they are created;
  and you renew the face of the earth. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 7:14-23

What renders us impure is not what enters us from outside but what's in the heart

Jesus called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile."

When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, "Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, "It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."


Wisdom from Above

Genesis describes the Lord planting a garden with all kinds of delightful things to eat and putting Adam there to cultivate and care for it. Within the garden was the tree of knowledge of good and evil whose fruit he was not to eat; Adam was expected to exercise self-control and a humble regard for God's instructions. Jesus developes this traditional idea, that external things are part of God's good creation. What we eat or drink is clean and healthy, gifts from the God of life. Evil comes from within the human heart, from whose wicked desires flow those crimes and offenses which corrode and corrupt the world about us.

The story-teller of Genesis wants to impress on us how the creation of human life needed a special intervention of God who breathed into man the breath of life; that the garden was not the result of human ingenuity but was prepared in advance by God. The wisdom to make the best use of the world also comes from the Lord, with our intellect illumined by his assisting grace. It is a wisdom that includes a humble attitude to care for the earth and the strength to control our selfish desires. A sensitivity towards God, a remembrance in prayer of God's gracious acts for us in the past, a joy from offering praise and adoration to our Maker, all this belongs to the wisdom by which good judgment is formed.

Without such wisdom, wicked designs begin to take hold within the heart. Jesus names some of these evil tendencies, almost the reverse of the ten commandments: fornication, theft, murder, greed, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. The wisdom by which we direct our lives must be sincere and fully supernatural, open always, as we read in the creation of the first human being, to the breath of God's Holy Spirit. At the base of every good life lies an intuitive, secret wisdom, the fruit of living prayerfully in God's presence and of responding humbly and obediently to the movements of God's spirit within us.

A person's inner core

While the heart is a powerful, traditional symbol for love, Jesus takes a somewhat more nuanced view of what lies hiddent in the heart. It can be the seat of evil intentions, intentions that are damaging and destructive of others. The heart is the person's inner core and we know that our heart can hold both light and shade; it can be a reservoir for good and for harm. One of the great traditional images of our faith in the past has been the Sacred Heart. Many of us may have grown up with an image of the Sacred Heart in our homes. It was an image which declared that at God's inner core was a totally selfless love, a love that was revealed fully in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. This greater love was powerfully creative and life-giving. Our calling is to have hearts that in some sense reflect the Sacred Heart, to have an inner core that partakes in some way of God's inner core. This grand vision of our fundamental calling is well captured in that simple but profound prayer that many of us will have learned at some time, "Come Holy Spirit, fill my heart, and kindle in me the fire of your love."