Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time – Mk 7:14-23
Today’s Gospel makes us think about what we eat. Way back in the beginning, in the book of Genesis, there was only one dietary restriction for man; there was only one food that could defile him, and it was the fruit of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil.” When in his pride man broke this diet, as it were, he became subject to death and later to the “burden of the law,” which included many additional dietary restrictions.
In the Gospel, Mark tells us that Jesus “declared all foods clean.” Although we usually take this statement in stride, without paying it much attention, at the time He said it, the Jews would have been outraged; some Biblical scholars go so far as to say it would’ve been “the most revolutionary passage of the New Testament.” After all, many Jews were tortured and died simply out of obedience to this aspect of the law. We can think, for instance, of the seven Maccabean brothers and their mom, who endured horrible torments simply to avoid eating pork.
However, we could say that Jesus brings things back to what God had originally intended in the garden. Even with its regulations and restrictions, the law was unable to bring grace and salvation, and for that reason, “what the law, weakened by the flesh, was powerless to do, this God has done: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rm 8:3). It’s not eating the right things that makes someone a saint, and it’s not eating the wrong things that makes a person a sinner; what makes for sin is a heart that is set on something other than God, a heart that disobeys Him, and produces fruit in accord with that.
Christ gives exactly thirteen forms of evil that come from the heart. In the Greek, the first seven are plural, and refer to actions; the latter six are singular, and refer to dispositions. These are what defile man, and the terms used for them are extremely strong in the Greek. Of particular interest is the word for arrogance or pride, ὑπερηφανία (huperephania). The word literally means “showing oneself above,” meaning, a contempt for everyone else; it’s a self-destructive vanity. “The interesting thing about this word, as the Greeks used it, is that it describes [a particularly insidious sort of pride], an attitude that may never become public. It may be that in his heart of hearts a man is always secretly comparing himself with others,” or might pretend to be humble, but really isn’t.
The solution or fix to this pride is also to be found in food, or rather, in a very particular food that first appeared when God sent His Son into the world: that food is the Eucharist. Saint Julian Peter Eymard calls humility a “Eucharistic virtue,” writing: “We should honor Our Lord in the manner and the virtue that He shows us in the Blessed Sacrament. Now, which is the virtue that He constantly practices there, constantly and openly teaches there to all, even to the most ignoration. Humility. He is more humiliated there than in His birth, His life, even His death.”
With this in mind, Eymard advises us to “ask Our Lord earnestly for His spirit of Eucharistic humility, of which you have the model always under your eyes. His Presence gives you the grace of it. Hold it in love and practice it faithfully. May every pulsation of your heart say to God: ‘Give me humility! Make me humble! Make me love humiliation!’”
In sending us His Son, God has restored us to life, and even provides the best food of all, the Eucharist, to aid us on our journey. Let us ask for the grace, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, to truly set our hearts on God alone, and, through loving humility, produce fruits worthy of the One who has called us.
 Cf. William Barclay, Commentary on Mark.