Clean Inside-Out

Luke 11: 37-41
Rom 1: 16-25 / Psa 19

But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.
(Luke 11:41)

No laws or rites can make us clean
If deep within lies cupidity.
What cleans us from the stain of sin
Is when we practice charity.

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited Him to dine at his home. So He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that He did not first observe the prescribed washing before the meal. And the Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of plunder and wickedness. You fools! Did not He Who made the outside make the inside also? But as to what is within, give alms and behold, everything will be clean for you.” (Luke 11: 37-41)

Reflection

A Pharisee had invited Jesus for dinner. As the Lord proceeded to his couch to begin eating, His host wondered why He had not observed the prescribed cleansing rite before meals. Was our Lord deliberately avoiding this washing rite in order to teach a lesson to the Pharisees who “cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside are full of extortion and wickedness”?

Jesus took this occasion to teach the principle of displacement. “Give alms,” He said, “and behold, everything will be clean for you” (Lk.11:41). He urged the Jews (and us) to give alms because when we give freely and generously to those in need we express our love, compassion, kindness, and mercy. If the heart is full of love and compassion, then there is no room for envy, greed, bitterness, and the like. Plunder, greed and all kinds of evil will be displaced by acts of kindness and generosity. The selfish pursuit of pleasure, comfort or fame can never co-exist with the genuine desire to help others and make life more meaningful. One will displace the other. Superficial acts of piety are worthless if we do not care to share the blessings that God has given us. Covetousness will disqualify us from the cleanliness of God’s kingdom.

Ecclesiasticus 3:29 puts it so aptly: “As water quenches a flaming fire, so alms atone for sins.” But no amount of water can cleanse us or sanctify the food that we eat. It is sanctified by acts of charity, like giving alms to the poor or the afflicted.

The devastation wrought by two typhoons in the northern part of our country in the past two weeks brought out the pure spirit of compassion and generosity from thousands of people who not only donated money, food and medicine, but were even willing to “soil themselves by serving” in the squalid, flooded areas of Metro Manila and the northern regions of Luzon. By reaching out to them, attending to their needs, giving them food, dry clothes and medicine, these Good Samaritans must have experienced such a great cleansing of their souls. Truly, as Christ had said, it is in charity that the inside of our cups are made clean.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; see if there be any evil way in me, and lead me in the everlasting path.” (Psa 139:23-24.) Lord Jesus, fill us with Your love and increase our desire to be like You. Cleanse our hearts of every impure thought and selfish motives, and instead, help us to be more compassionate to the poor who are in need of our help. By acts of charity shall we be made clean and worthy to receive You in holy Communion. Amen.

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