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Gospel for Sunday, August 29: Mark 7: 1-8.14-15.21-23

XXII Sunday B

1Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him. 2Having seen that some of his disciples took food with unclean hands, that is, unwashed –3in fact, the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they have washed their hands up to the elbow, following the tradition of the ancients, 4and returning from the market they do not eat without having performed ablutions, and observe many other things by tradition, such as washing glasses, dishes and copper objects – 5those Pharisees and scribes questioned him: “Why do your disciples not behave according to the tradition of the ancients, but take food with unclean hands?”. 6And he answered them: “Isaiah prophesied well of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7In vain they worship me, teaching doctrines that are precepts of men. 8Neglecting the commandment of God, you observe the tradition of men”… 14Calling the crowd again, he said to them: “Listen to me, all of you, and understand well: 15there is nothing outside man which, by entering into him, can contaminate him; instead, it is the things that come out of man that contaminate him”…21In fact, from within, that is, from the hearts of men, evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these bad things come out from within and defile man.

Mark 7, 1-8.14-15.21-23

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

Legal purity

Marco gives many explanations in this passage because he is writing for an Italian community. Matthew, in the parallel passage (Mt 15.1-20), does not bother to give many clarifications as he speaks to Jewish communities who are well aware of Jewish habits, customs and culture.

Before Jesus goes to the pagans, Mark places a long speech by Jesus, the longest in this section, to bring down the discriminating factor, the wall between the Jews and the pagans.

The central problem is precisely that of verse 15: that of pure foods and impure foods. There was a long debate about this in the first Christian community (Acts 10.1-11.18): a Council was also held on this topic (Acts 15.3-21).

The Law commanded the Israelites to eat only animals considered pure (Lev 11; Dt 14), and tradition also defines the rules for slaughtering and cooking food: it is the so-called kosher cuisine. According to them, it is forbidden to eat animals that are considered “impure” (taref), such as animals that do not ruminate or have no nails, fish without fins or scales (molluscs, mussels, crustaceans, eels), some birds or insects, animals that crawl on the ground.

At the beginning these rules were born as hygiene precautions, for fear of infections and pollution: the prohibition on eating birds of prey is due to the fact that they often feed on carrion; many of the prohibited animals feed on waste, or live near swampy waters.

The issue of pure foods and impure foods was so rooted in Jewish culture that it caused harsh disputes between the first Christians coming from paganism and the Christians of Jewish origin, who wanted to impose their rules even on non-Jewish converts. It took a particular revelation from God to Peter, in Caesarea, to make him understand: “What God has purified, no longer call profane” (Acts 10-11).

Interiority and radicality

The precepts of the Pharisees are all exteriority. To understand the mystery of the one bread that is Jesus Christ, we must have a different heart, a heart capable of loving.

And in front of the disciples in the following verses Jesus explains his parable, explains his “mashal” (vv. 14-17).

Mark tells us that Jesus requires radical morality from us. In vv. 21-23 there is a “list of vices” (see Rom 1,29-31; Gal 5,19-21; Col 3,5-8; 2 Tim 3,2-5…), twelve (symbol of the totality of evil), of which you are in the plural (bad acts) and you are in the singular (inner attitudes).

Jesus asks us that our heart be totally God’s. Jesus reiterates this above all to us who are “endo”, who are “at home” (v. 17: for Mark the house is a symbol of the Church), because we have not yet understood , because we are deaf and blind.

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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