Humans have been playing the blame game since Adam and Eve pinned the fall of humanity on the serpent. The first reading is all about the greatness of Solomon. But, if we read past today’s readings, we reach the chapter of Solomon’s fall from God’s graces, and eventually the division of the Kingdom. These tragedies come as a result, it is said, of his many foreign wives that persuade him to worship the gods of their motherlands. The message seems to be that foreigners are evil and are to blame for Solomon’s turning away from God.
The Gospel discusses another proposed evil - non-kosher food - the consumption of which the Pharisees believed to be the ultimate sin. However, Jesus condemns this cultural obsession, pointing out that food does not corrupt their souls, but their hypocrisy and infidelity to the fundamental Ten Commandments already has.
I think the takeaway here is that it’s really easy to blame other people and things - be they foreigners or pork - for our broken relationships with God. But God sees straight through these excuses and at the end of the day, we are responsible for our thoughts, words, and actions, not others. We are all guilty of occasionally shifting the focus from decisions made with our own free will. I have certainly been known to blame the traffic for making me lose my temper or to blame someone’s hurtful words for my hateful comeback. But the reality is that no person or thing can MAKE us sin. We can, of course, face temptations, and our God in his infinite mercy, takes our circumstances into account. But we have to make a humble and honest examination of conscience, coming to grips with where we strayed and where we could improve. It is only by acknowledging our weaknesses that we can start to work on them and to ask God for His help in overcoming them. A nightly examination of conscience is a good way to identify patterns of sinfulness and allow us to be more mindful in situations we know to be triggers.
God has granted us a free will, which we can use to either love and serve God and others or to turn away from Him. To blame our sins on other people or things is to claim that our souls are slaves to outside forces. Today, let's take responsibility for our failings and turn to God's mercy and grace for improvement.