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Wednesday Gospel reflection

Wednesday, February 08, 2017
I have my own views and peculiar behaviours with regards to eating food. That is, I usually avoid eating leftover foods, especially if in a Dominican community!I think about how the food which has been left over from previous days has been stored, and I think I’d rather not risk food poisoning. Does that make me obsessed with things that defile from outside the body? 

In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus speaks of foods and things from outside a person which cannot defile. Jesus declares all foods ‘clean’. The anthropologist Mary Douglas commented in her book Purity and Danger, that ‘unclean’ did not mean the same thing as it would today, with our knowledge of microbiology and the causes of food poisoning. I don’t usually eat things like cooked rice or gravy from previous days for instance, as I have seen the brothers leave it out for the entire evening at room temperature (there is a risk of food poisoning from clostridium micro-organisms or other bacterium - even if the food is re-heated, the toxins produced will remain!). Unclean does not, in the Gospel of Mark, mean food which is contaminated or containing bacteria. In the context of what Jesus is saying, the term ‘unclean’ refers to the ritual practices and obsession over purity of foods, prohibited foods, as well as other purity laws such as in relation to menstruation or being made unclean from touching dead bodies. Thankfully Christians are not bound to the old Law, and Jesus emphasises the things which make us impure (and logically, which require purification or sacrifices) are from within, the mortal sins which result in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace.


Luke Doherty O.P.

Fr Luke Doherty is assistant priest at Holy Cross, Leicester, and Catholic Chaplain to HMP Leicester |  luke.doherty@english.op.org


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