Tuesday 23 August 2022 – INNER PURITY IS ESSENTIAL

21st Week in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: 2Thes 2:1-3a, 14-17

We ask you, brothers and sisters, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a “spirit,” or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way. To this end he has also called you through our Gospelmto possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.

Gospel: Mt 23:23-26

Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should 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. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”

INNER PURITY IS ESSENTIAL: The two woes that Jesus utter against the scribes and Pharisees clearly illustrates their hypocrisy. Tithing was an old custom (Gen 14:20) and the law laid it down that a tenth should be given to the Lord (Lev 27:30-33; Deut 12:5-19 etc.). Jesus is not against tithing but he condemned the negligence of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus also condemns them for their meticulousness with outward things but ignoring their inner purity. The use of the words “plunder” and “self-indulgence” by Jesus is startling. It shows that the practices in which they engaged were not genuine and they took from others that which they were not entitled. A comfortable and luxurious life was more important that they could not allow their religious observances to interfere with it. Their attention to the outside purity was useless to Jesus.  External appearances do not matter; inner purity is essential.

Prayer: Lord help me to search my soul for inner purity.

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THE CEREMONIAL AND THE VIRTUOUS PEOPLE: In Judaism the appearance for the liturgical ceremony matters more than living good life in the society. As long as one pays tithes and appears clean in public for certain ritual, he was regarded as a pious person. For example, the Jews could not touch a dead body or a Gentile before a ritual because that could make him unclean.  There are more ceremonial people than holy people today. Appearing smart and pious in public or presenting offertory, contributing for the building of the church but remaining indifferent to the needy and oppressing and exploiting others.  Thomas A Kempis says “In truth, sublime words and actions make not a man holy and just but it is a virtuous life that makes him dear to God.” There is the need for focusing on living Gospel values than struggling with appearance in public while the hearts and actions are far from what one appears to be.