Clean Inside and Out

Matthew 23: 23-26
2Thes 2:1-3a,14-17 / Ps 96

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)

It’s the height of sheer hypocrisy
When we flaunt our own integrity;
More than justice, kindness, honesty
Is the virtue of humility.

“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 neglecting 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. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside may also be clean.” (Matthew 23:23-26)


Our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect model of a man who was true to His nature, both in His appearance and in His thoughts, words, deeds and feelings. In fact, He was totally faithful to all that was written about Him in Scriptures, as well as in the mission that He promised to accomplish. We can say that His life was an open book. He was frank and straightforward, and was never afraid to condemn the hypocrisy of the religious authorities, even if it meant certain death.

The Pharisees on the other hand, resorted to hiding behind masks of virtues that clearly did not match their true nature. They were content to just appear righteous in the eyes of the Jews. That was because it was easier for them to manage their externals than deal with their flaws that they would rather prefer hidden. But our Lord saw their hypocrisy and evil motives. So did St. John the Baptist, who called them “brood of vipers.”

Perhaps it is just part of human nature to keep our true feelings to ourselves. After all, nobody wants to be seen in a bad light. Or in the case of Mother Teresa, whom people regarded as a “living saint” when she was still alive, she did not want people who knew her to be “scandalized” by her true feelings. According to her letter to her confessor, for almost 50 years she was “living out a very different spiritual reality privately, in a landscape from which (God) had disappeared.” At one time, the “dryness,” “darkness,” and “torture” she was undergoing almost drove her to doubt the existence of God. Being 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, continuously practicing works of mercy for the poor and the dying, and being faithful 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 has shown us that human as we are, there will always be doubts, just as there wiill always be flaws in our character. But as long as we judge our own behavior (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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