Can Christians eat pork? Wednesday, 5th Week in ordinary time – Mark 7:14-23

Can Christians eat pork? Wednesday, 5th Week in ordinary time – Mark 7:14-23

Read also another article on this Gospel by clicking this link

Of all the titles that I have chosen to begin my teachings with, this to me is the oddest and yet I felt compelled to entitle this article thus so that we can move beyond this discussion and settle on what Christ truly intended to teach us.

It is my stated opinion that by and large the university of WhatsApp offers you the worst advice. It is written by the uninformed and disillusioned that have mastered the art of selective text or video edits, backed with sensational headlines like the one I have entitled today; headlines that feed the insatiable curiosity of our world. Their mission is clear; spread hate, misinformation or their brand of whatever they call truth. Their mission is to disturb and sow doubt not to comfort or bring truth. Many Catholics are active members of this WhatsApp university that requires no admission fee or attendance of any class. You just need Whatapp and a very fidgety finger that feels compelled to forward uninformed or half-baked teachings.

One such uninformed message floating around these days relates to Catholics eating pork. These devious followers of their version of home baked Catholicism will strongly pull out more than several dozen scripture lines from the Old Testament (only) and PROVE to you the foundations of their truth; pork was not intended by God to be consumed. The Gospel of today exposes their lies and even more exposes the hankering of some, who focus on external actions without a personal reflection on their interior attitudes.

At the heart of today’s Gospel is a public declaration of Jesus to the crowds when he says, “LISTEN TO ME, all of you and understand.” Christ wants us to listen to him not to the WhatsApp university; understanding comes from listening to Christ. Jesus too had to battle with his version of the WhatsApp university, they were called the scribes and the Pharisees. Remember that for four hundred years before Christ, the prophetic voice was silent and in these years of no prophets, the Jewish religious establishment emerged as the ‘guardians of the faith.’ By the time of Christ, they had distorted the written teaching with their oral traditions and several times, Christ, in Matthew Chapter five, is compelled to declare, “you have heard it said to you but I say to you.” Once again, he asks us to listen and understand.

What was the controversy at hand? Diet is a subject of taboo in many religions, and both Judaism and Islam have strict laws about lawful and prohibited foods. Abrahamic religions like Judaism, Islam fall back on texts taken from the Old Testament that forbid the consumption of animals that do not have divided hooves and that do not chew their cud. (Leviticus 11:3 and Deuteronomy 14:8.) For them such food is considered kashrut or haram

During the persecutions of Antiochus IV that forms the background to the Hanukkah story in the book of Maccabees, Jews accepted martyrdom rather than eating pork in public, since they understood this action as a public renunciation of their faith.

Yet Christ was emphatic in his teaching in the New Testament. “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” (Matthew 15:11) and as we also read in today’s text. This is supported by several teachings in the New Testament (Acts 10:9-16, Colossians 2:16, Romans 14:3, 1 Corinthians 10:25).

One should not quickly assume that Jesus was disregarding all the laws of the Torah or matters in the Old Testament. Jesus was addressing a specific teaching that needed course correction. Jesus was not one to teach others to violate the commandments since he himself taught, “Anyone who breaks them or teaches others to break them will be called least in the kingdom of God (Matt 5:19).

It was the Pharisees version of WhatsApp that Christ was forced to react to and react sternly. It was they who in Chapter 7:1-5 gathered together with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem and seeing that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?”

It is these man-made traditions that Jesus abolishes and not the commandments of God. Christ looks at our heart and while external actions, both liturgical and social have role to play in manifesting our beliefs, they are worthless if not interiorized and lived in the heart. This is the point that Christ truly wants to make and not principally a discussion on what you can and what you can’t eat; that is a matter better discussed with your doctor or dietician.

You may bow deeply and reverentially (and rightly so) but if that does not come from a clean heart then that is just another public display of faith that rings hollow in the heart of God.

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