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Clean from the inside out

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Lk 11:37-41

After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”

Jesus wants us to be clean from the inside out.

Our world is focused on appearances. We just have to scroll through the photos of an event like the MET Gala to see how people will go to extraordinary measures to stand out in a crowd.

Something that always stood out to me when I was living in Rome was the style of Italian houses. Oftentimes, a house could look rundown on the outside but was glitteringly beautiful on the inside. It seemed the opposite of what happens many times in the United States. Maybe the inside of the house is a mess, but people try to keep things presentable on the outside.

Obviously, the best is to have both the inside and the outside presentable. Today is a good day to take stock of ourselves, beginning with the inspiration today’s Gospel gives us. The Pharisees are in a tiff because Jesus does not make his disciples wash their hands before the meal. There was a ritual necessity to wash hands before a meal. Jews saw this as something that separated them from others and so helped to make them unique. They see it as a mark for their culture. For them, Christ leaving this tradition to one side did not merely make him uncouth. It made him someone who did not respect their cultural heritage.

Jesus is much deeper. He knows the reason behind the ritual and does not feel bound by its obligations. He knows that there is a lot of hypocrisy hid behind such ritualism. He finds it much more dangerous to get caught up on rituals and never live out the true meaning. Every time he has a meal with the disciples, they are experiencing communion with the living God. What does it matter if they performed the ritual washing or not?

Jesus prefers to work first on the inside. He knows what is ailing each one of his disciples. He wants to help them overcome their difficulties and become true men of the Kingdom. He wants to help them be clean from the inside out. Avoiding external, public sin is a good thing. However, it is still possible to be impure in one’s heart. Jesus wants purity of heart just as much as abstaining from external sin. He knows that a pure heart is something that will give us peace. So he insists that we work on ourselves from the inside out.

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