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Luke 11:37-41

The Word of God

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you."

Luke 11:37-41
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • These days we hear endless messages about hand-washing and sanitising. Cleanliness and hygiene are highlighted but it is because of the coronavirus. Ritual washing had a practical element but it became much more than that. We pray for the inner cleanliness that helps us to live more fully for you, Lord, and to be good companions to others in your name. ‘Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God’ (Matt 5:8)
    • Jesus availed of the invitation of a Pharisee to dine as an opportunity to teach. External situations provide opportunities to live our faith lives more fully. We are called to a change of heart, an internal conversion. Lord, give us the freedom to hear your message and to respond in being generous to others in your name. We pray to avail of the opportunities offered as Jesus did.
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    • The Pharisee is obsessed with observing the law; Jesus asks for much more than observance. Jesus, in this passage, does not seem to be thinking of alms in monetary terms, but in a much broader sense of the word. The words ‘alms’ derives from the Greek word ἐλεημοσύνη, meaning ‘compassion’ or ‘mercy’. We are called to do much more than drop coins into a needy person’s hand. Rather, our ‘alms’ should be acts of love that, in St Peter’s words, “cover a multitude of sins. “
    • Is my religion ‘observant’ or ‘engaged?
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    • The Pharisees seem to have been the only group of people who really upset Jesus. They were good people, keen to observe the law as perfectly as possible, but this often made them blind to more important things. Can I see a Pharisee in my heart, big or small? I pray for light and for integrity in all that I do. And I ask pardon for being so inconsistent.
    • Give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you. I just spend some time with these clear words of Jesus, and look at my almsgiving and its quality.
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    • The gospel traditions makes clear that part of Jesus' message was a new way of thinking about what was 'holy'. For Jesus, holiness is not a matter of avoiding what is considered ritually impure. Such an attitude can only lead to fear and paralysis, because the boundaries between pure and impure need to be rigorously policed.
    • When Jesus and his followers eat and drink with those declared sinners and outcasts, God's Kingdom comes about: a moment of liberation. Jews and Gentiles eat together at the same table, without fear of contamination.
    • Pope Francis says that the person receiving the Eucharist ought to take on the mentality of Jesus and live for Him and for others. “One who is nourished by the Eucharist assimilates the Lord’s very mentality. He is Bread broken for us and those who receive it become in turn broken bread, which is not leavened with pride, but is given to others: they stop living for themselves, for success, to gain something or to become someone, but live for Jesus and like Jesus, that is, for others”.
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    • Jesus unmasked the lack of heart in the law-abiding Pharisees. He is focussed on what is inside a person, in the human heart. The Pharisee, in sharp contrast, is primarily concerned with external observance of rules and regulations, such as the ritual washing before a meal.
    • What is my focus? Do I need help, honest feedback from a friend to clarify my heart? You know my heart, Lord. You know the movements and thoughts under the surface of my behaviour. Teach me to live first of all in your presence, free from seeking human respect.
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    • There is a Pharisee in all of us, big or small, who prefers cleaning the outside of the cup rather than tackle the greed and wickedness inside. The only way to deal with this conflict is to make my own the prayer of the publican in the temple, 'Have pity on me, a sinner'.
    • Jesus sees a link between almsgiving and purification of the heart. Elsewhere he insists that true almsgiving must be sincere, and not to elicit the admiration of others: it is not what we give but why and how we give it. How do I react to those who ask for my material help? What does my reaction to the current migrant crisis tell me about the state of my heart? I pray for real freedom to love those in need.
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    • True freedom is a marvelous gift. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of conforming to the expectations of others. We miss out then by not developing our own inner life which helps us to live other than through mere conformity to outside show.
    • I ask Jesus for the gift of inner freedom from which good judgment comes.
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    • Perhaps it was their fear of God that led the Pharisees to mask their greed and wickedness. As I come to know Jesus, I know that I have nothing to fear. I realise that God knows me thoroughly and loves me fully. All God asks of me is that I be honest, humbly recognise my need and grow towards God’s light.
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    • Have you ever been surprised when others do not ritually ‘toe the line’? Does this make me dismiss them? Jesus once again places love and inner goodness above the commands of law. What inner alms have I to share with others? Do I believe that even my little prayers for the world are blessed by God?
    • Lord, you search me and you know me better than I know myself. Cleanse my heart of any traces of ‘greed and wickedness’ and sow in me your generous spirit.
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    • Jesus is focussed on what is inside a person, in the human heart. The Pharisee, in sharp contrast, is primarily concerned with external observance of rules and regulations, such as the ritual washing before a meal. What is my focus?
    • The cleanliness of my heart is far more important than external cleanliness. The giving of alms in a genuine spirit of wishing to share with the needy is an authentic sign of inner goodness and integrity.
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    • Jesus tells us that holiness lies in wholeness and integrity; we are invited to be ‘of one piece’, without deep contradictions. I bring my life before God fully and openly, asking that any divisions in me be healed – that I be made whole.
    • Jesus sees people from the inside! By contemplating him I learn to see everyone ‘as great as God has made them’.
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    • The law laid down how much water you should use for washing before meals, the sort of vessel to contain it, the order in which you washed your hands, from the finger-tip to the wrist. The Pharisees considered it sinful to omit the smallest detail. Jesus tells them to give the same attention to cleansing their hearts.
    • Lord, I easily lose myself in details of religious behaviour, and fail to notice the spots of malice, greed and resentment in my heart. Open my inward eye.
    • It's one thing to speak a lot about God and holy things; it's another to live out what we hear and believe. Prayer is a time to deepen what is most relevant about faith and life. It is a time to allow the Word seep into our hearts and minds; to clean up the inside of ourselves and become more like Jesus, putting on the mind of the Divine.