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Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Kings 10:1-10 & Mk. 7:14-23

King Solomon was a man of legend who achieved great things during his reign. He raised strong armies, negotiated treaties and constructed beautiful cities. Most significantly of all, he built a temple that was the glory of his people.

But even more important than any of these great military and architectural achievements was Solomon's great wisdom. His fame spread far and wide and rulers from distant lands came to see him and his temple with their own eyes. Among them was the queen of Sheba who was, in her own words, dazzled by all the great things he had accomplished. But she saved her greatest praise for her last comment, "The people who stand before you are happy." Could that be the mark of a great ruler - that his people are happy?

There is a very important lesson taught by Jesus in the Gospel today. People were being influenced by the Pharisees who laid great emphasis on externals. Take the subject of food … Jesus said it is not anything that we eat which makes us clean or unclean in God’s eyes but what is in our hearts. This is because either sin or holiness lies inside the human heart and not in the digestive tract!

If our hearts are clean and pure we will see holiness flourish in our lives. If our hearts are soiled and impure Jesus lists the sins that come from hearts likes these – fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride and folly.

What about us? Are we like the Pharisees and lay great store on externals – fasting, holy pictures in our homes, regular prayer at fixed times, while our hearts are lacking in love for our family and our neighbours? Yes, these things can be good, if they help us to lead a life of holiness, but they are never central to our Catholicism in themselves. What is really in our hearts? Do we treat other people as children of God?

How important it is to keep a constant watch on our hearts! But we need not fear for Jesus is here to save us and not condemn us. He knows the condition of our hearts and no matter how bad, if we go to Him in sorrow for our failings and wanting to live better lives, He will never turn away from us in anger or disgust. He will not desert us. Always look upon Him as having His arms outstretched towards us, wanting to cleanse our hearts and to lead us in the right direction.

Lord Jesus, You are the great Physician. Help me to examine my heart. Always let me see the sickness of sin that may lurk there and encourage me to ask for Your healing hand, that You may create a clean heart within me. In this way You will help me to bring forth good fruit in holiness.

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