“Defile” – Sunday, September 2, 2018
Included among the definitions for the word ‘defile’ are 1) to sully, mar, or spoil, and 2) to desecrate or profane something sacred. The word occurs several times in the Gospel reading for Sunday, September 2 (Mark 7:1- 8,14-15,21-23), and it’s worth noting the different usages. The Pharisees and scribes were concerned that Jesus was not imposing their tradition of washing hands prior to eating bread. Yes, it had something to do with cleanliness, but just as much it was about following a religious ritual. Jesus was allowing his disciples to eat with “defiled hands”, and it so upset the Pharisees and scribes that they told him so.
The response of Jesus is harsh, even calling those religious leaders hypocrites for worrying about their humanly-devised rituals while failing to give proper attention to the greater concerns of God. It was not soiled hands that Jesus was worried about, but those things that desecrate and defile the holiness of God’s children. Such things emanate from the human heart, and are what rob one’s soul of the sacredness in which God created us.
Jesus’ life was devoted to our sanctification, not sanitation, and while washing our hands before eating is a good everyday practice, to allow Jesus to cleanse our hearts is what will ultimately unite us to the eternal life of God.