Jesus was quite emphatic and plain speaking in the gospel passage for this morning. (Mk 7) Clearly, he wanted people to “get the message” since he started with: Hear me, all of you, and understand. His point was that those who were complaining about people eating certain foods were living by a set of rules that could not save if there was no deeper meaning. When even his disciples didn’t get what he was trying to convey, he got “down & dirty” saying: Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine? (Definitely too much information for some…)
Certainly rules are necessary for good order in a culture. Even in spiritual practice, following some procedural steps can help to deepen the practice, but rules will never get us to the depths for which we long; for that we need a heart willing to be cleansed of all impurities like jealousy, criticism, gossip…We know our own.
Jesus sounded frustrated today, seemingly because the principle to be grasped is so simple (living from the heart) although the practice is far from easy. We seem to have an advantage here with the life of Jesus as a model. He was an observant Jew whose heart led him deeper than the rules when it seemed that the rules were not sensible and his heart called him to a higher law. Can we step out in the same way? Only, I submit, if we have listened deeply within and are listening not only to ourselves but also to the heartbeat of God.