As we continue our journey through the third week of Lent, Christians throughout Columbia will be sharing their own beautifully written “letters from the heart.” Each will be accompanied by corresponding relevant scripture verse(s), and linked to sources for further study. If you would like to join us on Columbia’s Lenten journey, please send us your “letter from the heart” by email. Especially meaningful submissions will be printed. Let us continue our Lenten journey of repentance, meditation, and anticipation day-by-day, to its glorious culmination on Easter morning.
Genesis 47:27, 48:7 | 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 | Mark 7:1-23
“There is nothing that enters a man from outside that can defile him, but the things which come out of him; those are the things that defile a man.”
St. Patrick was a fifth century missionary to Ireland who converted the pagans on the island to Christianity. Legend says that he used the shamrock as a way to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity, three persons in one God, to unbelievers by showing them the three-leaved plant with one stalk. Legend also says that he drove the snakes of Ireland into the sea to their destruction.
This synopsis, one that we teach our children, is uncomplicated and cheerful. However, the history of Ireland is not all shamrocks and leprechauns. Northern Ireland’s history is one fraught with violence and carnage for a thousand years in the name of religion. In fact, the island is a microcosm of what Christian can accomplish in the name of “god.”
Similarly, in today’s reading the Pharisees, by focusing on the Purity Laws and outward signs of spirituality, were dividing rather than unifying. They managed to circumvent the giving of their hearts to God through their pious behavior, and they placed burdens on the Jews to follow Mosaic Law. All this had everything to do with outward appearances and nothing to do with their hearts.
In the reading, Jesus says that these rituals and Purity Laws are divisive; He says that the laws occupy the Pharisees and keep them from knowing God. Jesus breaks that tradition – and the law – and says that we have to hear the word of God and act on it.
As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, let us be mindful of what burdens we place on ourselves and our neighbors in the name of religion.
Is there something in your life that keeps you occupied, preventing you from receiving Jesus’ love? We pray for the peace of Ireland, and that we may come to the Lord our God with our hearts. Amen.
John Pulaski Thomas, IV
Columbia, South Carolina