Jesus tells us in the Gospel today 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.
We see this in the First Reading which is a more detailed narration of the Creation story, specifically, of man and woman. It is God’s plan that man live with him in a life where everything the man needs is provided. god gave the man to freely eat of every tree of the garden; but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat. While this may or may not be a physical fruit, the idea here is there were limits to what we can do. We are free to do what we want as long as we keep within the boundaries God has defined. Going beyond that defiles us. So from the sins Jesus enumerated, all these are human begins going beyond what is natural. The human sex act is something beautiful within the confines of marriage. But when one performs that act outside of marriage then it goes beyond the boundaries set by God. Likewise owning property is good, but when the desire to accumulate wealth becomes excessive, it goes beyond the boundaries set by God. So are the other sins Jesus enumerated.
God wills that man live with him for eternity and he proves this when he created the man. The man will continue to live in this state when he obeys God. God warned the man: for in the day that you eat of it you shall die. Some translations have this as you will surely die. This death God speaks of is not physical death, but separation from God. When we go beyond the limits God has set for us, we reject him, therefore separate from God. This act of rejection is an act of rebellion against God and is called sin. When someone is in a state of sin, then God is not bound to hear the prayers of that person. Which is why it is important to repent, to turn back to God when one realizes one is not living according to the limits set by God.
St Scholastica was the twin sister of St Benedict, the Father of Western Monasticism and founder of the Benedictine order. She founded an order of consecrated virgins about five miles from Benedict’s monastery. She would meet her brother once a year to discuss spiritual topics and on their last meeting, Scholastica asked Benedict to stay for the night but Benedict said he had to leave so as not to break his rule that he had to return to his cell at night. Scholastica prayed and a few minutes later it storm started making impossible for Benedict to go back to the monastery. When Benedict asked her what she did, she said I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can; leave me and return to your monastery. Benedict stayed and their discussion continued through the night. A few days later, Scholastica died. This incident shows us that when we live within the boundaries the Lord set for us, we live in freedom, and we are assured of the Father hearing our prayers. He answers in the way he sees fit.
Lord God, teach me to live in you and teach me to obey you. I repent of my sins, for the times I have rejected you. Receive me again Lord, I trust in you. St Scholastica, pray that I may live in the Lord, always.