Clean Inside Out

Matthew 23: 23-26
1 Thes 2:1-8/Ps 139:1-6

You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, but have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity.
(Matthew 23:23)

What lies within is what is real,
And no amount of scheme or stealth
Can hide that time will not reveal,
Lord, give our souls clean bill of health.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, but have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. These things you ought to have done without neglectig the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside may also be clean.” (Matthew 23:23-26)

Reflection

Many Christians find it hard to show their true nature by their natural appearance, and resort to hiding behind facades of virtues that often do not match the person within. That’s because it is easier to manage our externals than it is in dealing with our perceived flaws that we would rather prefer hidden. St. Paul said in today’s first reading: “…we are not trying to please human beings, but rather God, Who judges our hearts” (1 Thess.2:4). To be real, our focus must always be on God, our Father.

A modern day example of a pure soul was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In a feature of Time magazine, it was revealed that she kept a deep secret of spiritual dryness and psychological pain during most of her lifetime, when in fact her great works of mercy appeared to be clear manifestations of her closeness to God. For almost 50 years, according to her letters to various confessors, she was “living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which (God) had disappeared.” In a book entitled, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, her letters revealed that for the last almost half-century of her life, God was “neither in her heart nor in the Eucharist.” At one time, the “dryness,” “darkness,” and “torture” that she was undergoing almost drove her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. Being acutely aware of this discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor, she wrote that her smile was just “a mask” or “a cloak that covers everything,” and as she told an adviser, “If you were (there), you would have said, ‘What hypocrisy.’” (Time Magazine, August 24, 2007)

And yet, what made Mother Teresa truly a great saint was that despite her spiritual torments, she never neglected the weightier things of the law, judging herself severely, lest she fell into self-righteousness. She continued doing works of mercy for the poor and the dying, and kept fidelity to God and her vocation even in her “darkest night of the soul.” She remained clean inside and outside the cup and dish.

Mother Teresa showed us that human as we are, there will always be doubts, just as there will always be flaws in our character. Her greatness, however, was reflected in her deep humility, for “those who humble themselves shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11). As long as we judge our own behavior (and not other people), show mercy to others, and be faithful to Christ come what may, then our outer physical appearance will be as clean as our soul within.

Lord, You have probed me, You know me: You know when I sit and when I stand; You understand my thoughts from afar (Psa.139:1-2), far better than I know myself. Deal with me then as You will, so that my cup and dish will always be clean. Amen.

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