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5th Week, Wednesday: Feb 12th: Reflection & Liturgy


1 Kings 10:1-10 / Mark 7:14-23 
The Queen speaks about Solomon: “Your people are fortunate to have you.”

“Not until I became a mother did I understand how much my mother sacrificed for me; not until I became a mother did I understand how hurt my mother was when I disobeyed; not until I became a mother did I understand how proud my mother was when I achieved; not until I became a mother did I understand how much my mother loved me.” Victoria Farnsworth.
The words of Victoria Farnsworth about her mother and the words of the Queen of Sheba about King Solomon add up to the same thing: We often take for granted the people around us. We often need an outsider to make us aware of how fortunate we are to have such people.
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Of the people in our life, is there anyone we have been taking too much for granted? What could we do to show our appreciation to that person? “My mother was dead for five years before I knew that I loved her very much.” Lillian Heilman, The Unfinished Woman
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One of the basic needs of mankind is food. In fact, it may even be the most fundamental need of all creatures. Flowing from that need, food has also become a sign of communion. Hence, there are such things like communion sacrifices or ritual food.

Our partaking of Holy Communion is a profound example of a communion sacrifice and a ritual food in which we come into communion with the Lord Jesus. But many religions also have dietary laws in which some types of food are forbidden and hence, would render a practitioner of a particular religion ritually unclean. This was the context of the discussion about food in today's gospel. Yet Jesus also made a very radical teaching about food. He pronounced all foods clean. He also pointed out that what is really unclean is actually what comes out from the heart.

As Jesus said, it is from within, from men's hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.

As we participate in the Eucharist, we also prepare ourselves to come into communion with Jesus. So what is the state of our hearts? If there is sin, have we gone for the Sacrament of Reconciliation so as to receive forgiveness and healing and be in a state of grace to receive Jesus the Lord. Let us remember that God and sin cannot exist together in our hearts.

We come to the Eucharist not just to consume a piece of wafer but to receive the Lord Jesus. May our hearts be pure so that our lives will be holy.
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Wednesday of 5th Week - LITURGY

PURE AND SINCERE HEARTS

Introduction
The Old Testament heaps praise on Solomon as the typical wise man, who understood the meaning of life, of the world, of right and wrong. People came to him from distant countries to seek his advice. And yet, as we know, in later life at least, his wisdom was not powerful enough to keep him humbly oriented towards God. His heart became divided.
Divided too, were the hearts of the Pharisees, as Jesus points out in the Gospel; their interior attitude did not correspond to their outward practices. The question of pure/impure was very important for the early Church, as it was one of the strongest traditions of the Jews and a point of contention for them. Hence, the Christians coming from Jewry asked themselves whether they could eat from the same table with non-Jews. According to Mark, in the light of creation that sees all foods as created good and pure, in the kingdom the rules about food are abolished.

Opening Prayer
Father, God of the ever-new covenant,
you have tied us to yourself
with leading strings of everlasting love;
the words you speak to us are spirit and life.
May your Spirit make us look at the commandments
not as a set of observances.
May they move us to serve you
not in a slavish way, but as your sons and daughters
who love you and whom you have set free
through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Commentary 
King Solomon’s reputation for wisdom and insight has reached foreign courts—as far away as the queen of Sheba. The queen comes to see if his competence can be verified, bringing with her all manner of good things: gold, spices, and precious stones. The queen is not disappointed. Solomon addresses her questions resolutely, much to her satisfaction. Solomon’s royal appointments, his table, his waiters, and his general opulence all make a deep impression on her. On one occasion in the Gospels, Jesus mentions this visit of the queen of Sheba to Solomon and says about himself, “Something greater than Solomon is here” (Matt 12:42). Jesus is the Wisdom of God, and what he says must be taken with the utmost seriousness. In today’s Gospel he speaks of the heart as the center of all evil. Who of us cannot trace our own misdeeds to some movement from within? A friend of mine was once involved in a financial scam. He was neither the most nor the least guilty, but did have a part in some of the wrongdoing. I saw it as a misguided “once in a lifetime” mistake and wrote to the judge asking for leniency in view of his overall good conduct. The man, however, was sentenced to prison, with a sentence that the judge considered fair but not severe. The time was served and a good family life disrupted. There are times in life when we must pay the price for our wrongdoing. The greatest tragedy is not the mistake but not to have learned from the mistake. But it all begins in the heart with a “yes” or a “no.” Indeed, it is the evil that comes from within that makes a person impure. 

Points to Ponder 
The wisdom of Solomon
Temptations from within
Coping with temptation 

Intercessions 
– For families plagued by quarrels and division, that the Lord may bless them with peace, we pray:
– For all the Churches that invoke the name of Christ, that they may accept the invitation of our Lord to eat with him from the table of unity and love, we pray:
– That the Spirit may keep lawmakers today distinguishing between good and evil, we pray: 

Prayer over the Gifts 
Lord our God, we bring before you our readiness to respond to your love. We ask you that these gifts of bread and wine may become the body and blood of your Son, Jesus Christ, that with him we may be dedicated to you with our whole mind and heart, and that we may be capable of communicating your love and justice to all those around us. Grant us this through Christ, our Lord. 

Prayer after Communion 
Lord our God, your Son, Jesus, has shared himself with us in this Eucharistic celebration. Purify our hearts and intentions, that we may also share in his attitude of openness to your will and to the needs of people. May we thus, fulfill more than the law and serve you as your sons and daughters, in whom you recognize Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord for ever. 

Blessing
Commandments are not just observances that guarantee our salvation. They are a response to all God has given us. We ask God not what we are obliged to do, but what he expects us to do to respond to his love. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.