Commentary on the Gospel of
When I was younger, my parents would ask me to clean my room. Being fashionably lazy at that age, I would make sure my dirty clothes and toys were well hidden on the floor in my closet behind the door. I would also make sure something was moved to obscure the stain on my carpet. After a while, my room began looking spotless, at least at first glance from a distance, but what about the hidden mess?
How well does our inner being match our outside ---- the person we show the world? Would the person people see on the outside match the person on the inside? What about the Pharisee we carry around in our own hearts? The Pharisee that embodies us when we find ourselves standing in judgment of others ---- the way they dress, speak, their racial identity, whom they love, and what they believe? In today’s Gospel, once again, a Pharisee annoys Jesus and gets scolded. We might say the Pharisee was just trying to make sure the laws were observed perfectly with no deviation. However, something is lost in the process, something even more important in terms of our humanity ---- attention to our wholeness and looking beyond the obvious.
I admit, I am guilty of being the Pharisee when I take one look at another person and immediately assume to know who they are and decide their moral virtues relative to my beliefs and standards. I might go to church every week, but does that religious observance translate to compassion or mercy towards others? I might say the right prayers each day and recite them perfectly, but have I taken the time for self-reflection so I might determine areas within myself that need attention, healing, forgiveness, and decluttering, so I may feel light enough to be fully present to others? I might call myself a Christian, but have I really thought about what I hold as holy? Have I policed my definition of holy so much so, I have become paralyzed and left out what Jesus might regard as holy or holiness, that is, besides good observance of ritual? I have often found that my outside and inside are inconsistent? I frequently find myself polishing my outside but forgetting to cleanse my inner being of anger, wicked thoughts, and resentment.
It is easy to see the state of our inner being if we take time to notice our positive or negative internal movements --- our feelings of resentment when someone has more than we do, our feelings of distrust when someone of a different race stands near us or falls in love with us, or our anger when life doesn’t quite go our way. It is easy to see the state of our insides when our frustrations rise to the surface when someone has a different opinion than we do, or even when we are gifted with new opportunities. Do we stop to check what is stirred up in our hearts and soul as we encounter others? Are we free enough to face our inner Pharisee? Have we checked the state of our inner being? Does it radiate with goodness, integrity, and compassion for others and ourselves? After we have shown the world how well we have polished our outer person --- our extensive knowledge of church doctrine, our fine garments, our accomplishments, could we say we have done as much work on our heart and soul? Do we live what we believe?
There is a way to work on our inner being --- prayer, and discernment anchored with the word of God. The word of God is living and effective, says today’s gospel acclamation. The word of God would help us reflect and discern thoughts of our heart, cleanse our souls, and bring us closer to becoming women and men for and with others, as we look beyond our eyes and see beyond the obvious.
Lord, help us discern reflections and thoughts of our hearts as we engage in relationships with one another.