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 the 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.” (Matthew 23:23-26)
Do you have a junk drawer at home? That’s the place where anything for which we can’t find a place winds up. Usually jumbled. I have one. Others have a junk closet. Whatever its shape, it hides a lot. On the surface, the room or the house looks great but inside it’s a mess.
This kind of superficial remedy can give us an image of what our spiritual life can be like. It can be tempting to clean the outside of the cup while not tending to the inside. At a restaurant we make sure to say grace before eating but think nothing of snapping at a waiter. Or we go to Church and look pious but come out and think nothing of making a snide comment about someone. Or we listen to a sermon, don’t like it because it gets to close to exposing a flaw and we make sure to criticize the message or the messenger to friends.
Why don’t our outward observances more closely match what’s inside us? Oftentimes, it’s because we find it easier to manage our appearance than to deal with our flaws. We want to hide them away and occupy ourselves with what we can control. It’s as if we were a parent whose teenager is always fighting, and all we do is keep reminding him to comb his hair! But like a wise parent, Jesus insists that we come to him and tell him what the real problem is. He is anxious to listen to us and to offer us his healing remedy.
We need to tend to our soul and make sure the intentions behind our actions are holy motivations. We need to check our heart frequently so that we can work with purity of intention. Sometimes we work only to present an appearance to others, to appear virtuous and holy, but inside we are filled with negative judgments, such as lack of charity. Virtue comes from within the heart of a person, where the Spirit dwells and inspires as he wills. We need to be attentive to the Holy Spirit and follow his lead.
Being attentive to the Holy Spirit means we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to hold up a mirror to our souls every day. It begins with an honest question. Why do you follow Jesus? Do you follow Him because you are obliged by your faith or you follow Him because of your deep love for Him? When you follow Jesus because you see it as your obligation; there will not be a deep transformation within you. You simply follow for the reason that it creates a positive self-image for you and it ends with the positive self-image: No interior cleansing and transformation.
When we follow Jesus because we love Him, we allow the love of Jesus to deeply transform us. For example, if we follow Jesus because we love Him, we will be forgiving, we will not store hatred in our hearts. And we will abhor anything that is bad and evil because we give Jesus the freehand to transform us.
Our discipleship with Jesus must always be rooted in our love for Him and not because this is dictated by our faith. For this is what true discipleship is all about, a discipleship that creates a very deep and honest transformation within our being.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, you know what is in my heart. Purify it and recast it in the image of your divine heart, so that I may love you and love others as you love them. Let me put aside all vanity and desire for appearances that does not give glory to you.”
Authentic spirituality is not a question of formalisms and actions to appease God, but rather of turning our hearts to his word. We need to make our hearts more like His, in charity and mercy toward others. How many times do we miss the most important things and work only at side issues? How often do we try to please God in the wrong way, by supposing we are doing his will when actually we are only doing our own will instead? How often do we forget the true essence of devotion to the law of God?