After Jesus had spoken,
a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.
He entered and reclined at table to eat.
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
I love to read in the Scriptures about times when the Lord read the minds of the people He encountered. It is not explicit that the Lord read the mind of the Pharisee, but it is implicit. The Pharisee is amazed that Jesus does not wash His hands before the meal. And only the thought prompts Jesus to respond to the Pharisees. He blasts them for the strict observance of external things (hand-washing) while neglecting the interior life.
I don’t think that Jesus is saying that we should throw out all of the externals. In fact, rituals had been a part of the Jewish tradition for many years. As Catholics, we have rituals that lead us into the mysteries of God. But if we are more concerned about the exterior while neglecting the interior, we have a problem.
I remember I used to do this. I did all of the “right things”. I studied hard and received good grades. I did well on the baseball field. I had some great friends. To some people I appeared to have it all. However, inside I was empty. I felt like I was living a lie.
My heart was aching for something more – I was missing that intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. When I allowed Jesus into my heart and began to converse with Him on a regular basis through prayer and reading Scripture, my life began to change. The Sacraments took on a new meaning for me as personal encounters with Jesus. My prayer became an opportunity to be with my Best Friend.
We often put on a wonderful exterior while we are truly hurting inside. Or we make everyone think that we are living a holy life, when actually there is a grave sin that continually haunts us. We live a double life. Our public persona does not match our private one. The Lord is calling us today to turn to Him and be real. May we take off our masks and allow the Lord into the deepest recesses of our hearts to heal us and make us whole.
The other thing I noticed at the end of this Scripture passage is that Jesus recommends that we give alms to be cleansed of what we hold within. What is giving alms? It is focusing our talents and energies on helping others. We take the focus off of ourselves and become others-focused. Often our sin stems from being selfish and self-focused.
So let us take time today to think about these two things:
1) Do I go about my daily life doing the right things so that I appear good and holy? What am I doing to develop the interior life? Do I have an intimate friendship with Jesus Christ? He wants our hearts, not just our external practices.
2) Am I a person that serves others? Am I selfish? Do I think about only what I need? Take time today to do something for another person. Don’t ask for anything in return. True love seeks the best for others. This life is not about us.
Have a blessed day!