Perhaps it’s a God-Incidence, but today’s Gospel account is one that I wrote a children’s homily for some time back.
In Robert Fulghum fashion (author of All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten), I think the message and content of the homily is timely today, too.
Here’s the Gospel text: (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.
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.”
And here’s the homily I spoke about:
Sometimes it’s hard to keep clean. We might be working outside, or playing soccer, and it’s easy to get mud and grass stains on our clothes. It’s not a big deal, though, because our parents help us get those clothes clean again by running them through the washer and dryer. Today we learn about another way of cleaning ourselves from Luke’s gospel.
When Jesus goes to have dinner with the Pharisee, he teaches us an important lesson about being clean inside. The Pharisee is surprised that Jesus does not purify his hands before He sits down to eat. So Jesus takes the opportunity to teach the man that God is more interested in cleanliness of mind and heart than that of his hands.
The reason that the Pharisee was so surprised is because it was a Jewish custom that you had to ritually wash your hands before eating. The man belonged to a group that was obsessed with following all the rules and customs of the Jewish people. He wasn’t trying to trick Jesus; he was just caught off guard when Jesus sat down. He was too focused on the external sign of washing that he missed the whole point of learning what Jesus had to say. And we know that Jesus didn’t simply forget to wash his hands; rather he wanted to teach us a lesson about what makes us clean.
He teaches us today that God wants us to take care of our whole person, because he made every part of us, our bodies and our minds and our hearts, too.
And we all know how we clean our bodies; we take a shower or a bath each day, and we wash our hands before meals. But do we remember to keep our minds and hearts clean, too? Let’s think for a moment about how we can do that –
When we say a prayer for someone we keep our minds clean. When we help our parents with chores is another way. When we stick up for someone is one of the very best ways to keep our minds & hearts clean.
And Jesus today tells the Pharisee another good way to clean our hearts, by giving to the poor. Because when we are taking care of the needs of others we don’t concentrate only on what we want, but what they need, too.
So those are all great ways to help keep us clean, inside and out, just like the cup and dish that Jesus talked about today.
But the very best way to clean our minds and hearts is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we sin, our hearts and minds get cluttered with the things we have done. They distract us from doing what God wants of us. But through this sacrament, Jesus wipes away all of our sins and makes our hearts and minds completely clean. And when we keep ourselves clean, we have more opportunities to help others and to model our lives after Jesus.
So as we continue Mass let’s all think of one way that we can clean our heart by helping someone else this afternoon. That way we can show Jesus that we heard Him speak to each of us personally through the Gospel today.