Cleaning the Inside

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)

What rituals can make us clean
If deep within lies iniquity?
What cleans us from the stain of sin
Is when we practice charity.

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited Him to eat with him; so He went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. (Luke 11:37-41)

Reflection

It is obvious in this passage of Luke’s Gospel that our Lord Jesus intentionally ignored the usual ritual of washing the hands before the meal in order to teach an important lesson to the Pharisees and scribes. Jesus said to them, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” Our Lord never minced words to criticize their hypocritical mindset that it was enough to show their piety to the people by external signs of cleansing, rather than by genuine acts of atonement for their “greed and wickedness” by practicing charity to the poor.

“Being generous to the poor” should have reminded them passages in Scriptures, such as: “As water quenches a flaming fire, so almsgiving atones for sins” (Sir.3:29); “By kindness and piety, guilt is expiated, and by the fear of the Lord man avoids evil” (Prov.16:6); “The needy will never be lacking in the land; that is why I command you to open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your country” (Deut.15:11); “Store up almsgiving in your treasure house, and it will save you from every evil” (Sir.29:12); and the most beautiful verses from the Book of Tobit: “Give alms from your possessions; do not turn your face away from the poor, and God’s face will not be turned away from you… Do not hesitate to give alms; you will be storing up treasure for yourself against the day of adversity… Alms are a worthy offering in the sight of the Most High for all who give them” (Tob.4:7,9,11).

External forms of worship such as praying in public and excessive fasting, and the display of almsgiving had always been the causes of friction between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus was very concerned about the bad example that they were showing to the people. That was why He said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.” (Mt. 6:1-2) Jesus also told His disciples that “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20).

Today’s Gospel teaches us the importance of showing mercy and kindness to the poor and helpless rather than the observance of traditional religious practices. What good is going to mass and praying our novenas if we cannot give alms out of mercy to the beggars outside the church? “I desire mercy more than sacrifice,” says the Lord of hosts. Jesus teaches us how to cleanse our souls — 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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