Reading: And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Luke 11:39.
Good morning, Happy Tuesday, and many blessings my dear family.
The Gospel for today, Luke 11:37-41, is extremely short (only 4 verses). Jesus had been preaching much of the day. After he finishes, one of the men in the crowd who was a Pharisee invited Jesus to come to his house and dine with him. Jesus accepted his invitation.
The meal had begun when suddenly the host realized that Jesus had not observed the ritual washing that was customary before dining. The man was very surprised at this! From the Gospel we don’t know if the host confronted Jesus about this infraction of Jewish customs or if Jesus simply saw that his host was upset that Jesus had not honored one of the customs of their faith!
In the reading Jesus gets very impatient with the man and his rules and regulations. Jesus accuses the man of outwardly doing what is required by their customs. Jesus could see that the Pharisee’s heart was filled with greed! The Pharisee followed the law but what was his motivation?
Jesus is unapologetic. He challenges the Pharisees to pay attention to inner cleanliness, not to plates and dishes.
These days we hear endless messages about hand-washing and sanitizing. Cleanliness and hygiene are highlighted but it is because of the coronavirus. Ritual washing had a practical element, but it became much more than that. We pray for the inner cleanliness that helps us to live more fully for you, Lord, and to be good companions to others in your name. ‘Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God’ (Matt 5:8)
The heart is the place where we meet God. God is not remote and demanding of external pious acts but attentive to the truth of our inner attitudes. It is striking that Jesus says “so give alms” and “everything will be clean for you”. This teaching is also in the Law of Moses but the Pharisees do not even remember it let alone practice it. We can ask for the grace to be able to give alms cheerfully and gracefully today.
The gospel traditions make clear that part of Jesus' message was a new way of thinking about what was 'holy'. For Jesus, holiness is not a matter of avoiding what is considered ritually impure. Such an attitude can only lead to fear and paralysis, because the boundaries between pure and impure need to be rigorously policed. As churches we must realize that the practice of social holiness starts from identifying what the real social problems are, with their nuances and local characteristics, beyond the visibility imposed by the media.
Today Jesus invites us to look closely at our motivations. Why do we do what we do? Are our choices and actions prompted by our desire to truly follow Jesus’ example? Or do we do what is considered correct simply because we want to “look good?”