13 February 2019
At the time when the Lord God made earth and heaven there was as yet no wild bush on the earth nor had any wild plant yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth, nor was there any man to till the soil. However, a flood was rising from the earth and watering all the surface of the soil. The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.
The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. The Lord God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it. Then the Lord God gave the man this admonition, ‘You may eat indeed of all the trees in the garden. Nevertheless of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat, for on the day you eat of it you shall most surely die.’
Jesus called the people to him and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’
When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’
It is from within, from the human heart……and they defile a person.
Recently, there was some media attention on a HIV data leak in Singapore. The accused is a foreigner who came to Singapore to start a new life with his partner. Only that this person is HIV positive and therefore presents several issues – one of which was being unable to obtain an employment pass. So, through a series of lies and deception, the love story progressed and turned horribly wrong.
As the story unravelled, there are people who could be affected by this data leak – it is traumatic for them. Coming out and letting loved ones know of their condition is hard enough – let alone having this information available for public consumption. They are worried and afraid of what people will think if they knew their conditions. Would they be ostracized? Would they lose their love ones, dignity and their livelihood?
We fear people with HIV because we equate this to AIDS. The fact is that the majority of people living with HIV will never develop AIDS, with treatment. We are educated that people contract HIV through sexual behaviour and needle or syringe use. Only certain bodily fluids — blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk — from a person who has HIV, can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream for transmission to occur.
Today’s HIV person is like a modern-day leper. It’s what was from the ‘outside’ that made him ‘tainted’.
In Jesus’ time, people were so scrupulous about rituals and foods being unclean. Today’s gospel tells us that what renders us impure is not what enters us from outside but what’s in the heart. What matters is the state of our hearts. He warns us not to be so legalistic like the Pharisees – performing acts just to keep up appearances, so that people will see us as holy and righteous because we go by the book. But what really counts is the inner motivation, not the act in itself.
Where in my life have I been a Pharisee? Have I served in my ministry with the purest of intentions? Have I served with a heart of love and compassion but felt irritated and impatient with a fellow ministry member? Have I let these external irritations fester in my heart?
How has someone who has been so ‘holy’ and ‘prayerful’ turn around and cheat and betray someone else?
How can an act of love become selfish and self-serving?
In the story that I began my reflection with today, it may not be the disease that will cause the man’s fatality, but the lies and deceit that will cripple his heart, and cause him to lose what’s precious to him.
Brothers and sisters, let’s pray for the healing of this gentleman and his partner – in body, mind and spirit. And pray that whatever we do and say – may it come from a place of love, forgiveness, and compassion.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord, may we not be defiled, separated from God, by the sins of the heart, evil intentions and sinful actions. Lord, by your grace protect our hearts and help us to be loving and compassionate.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, that your grace transforms us from within. Thank you Father for forming us in your image and likeness. May we be worthy of you.