What Is Inside You Matters Most
What really matters for us, what makes us what we should be, is faith. “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” Faith will make us live. But for Paul too faith is not just a belief in tenets. Faith expresses itself in deeds.
In today’s gospel Jesus reacts against pious Jews who stress the observance of the externals – laws, rules, customs – without inspiration and motivation from inside. Most probably the Pharisees were sincere in practicing these outward regulations, but they easily gave the ones practicing them the conviction of saving themselves through them. In fact, in today’s world too externals count heavily. People buy things for their wrappings. Appearances are often all that matters… It is not the shining cup that matters but the contents. Indeed, the contents must be first-rate.
1 Reading: Romans 1:16-25
Brothers and sisters: I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek. For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.” The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Responsorial Psalm: PS 19:2-3, 4-5
R. (2a) The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge. R.
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message. R.
Alleluia: Hebrews 4:12
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Luke 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.”
The knowledge of God revealed by creation leads to a belief in the creator. This is not the same as the faith that Paul proclaims and that is salvific. But it is still salutary. And Paul faults those pagans who instead of seeing the qualities of God reflected in the created order turned their backs and followed their vain pursuits with images of mortal men or other creatures. The final result was their embrace of impurities and lusts and the basest types of human conduct.
Jesus in today’s Gospel takes issue with another type of improper conduct: formalism or externalism. This is the type of conduct that is much taken up with the correct externals but gives scant attention to internal moral dispositions. If the Pharisees were as concerned with the needs of the poor as they were with ritual purity, their lives would have been much different.
The truth of the matter is we are inclined to become overly attached to creatures and not enough concerned with the Creator. The passing values of this world claim our attention exorbitantly. We often forget that what is in vogue today is passé tomorrow. Yet God’s concern for us is everlasting. As far as externals go, that may be all the farther we can see. When was the last time we as a family had a good discussion about our moral values? It is quite a good idea and is capable of producing very good results.
What is inside us? God knows, and I hope each of us knows himself too. May the Lord love what he sees in you, and may almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!