While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.’
Today’s reading invites us to examine the motivations that lie behind our words and actions. Are we driven by pure ambition and a craving for social esteem, or do we spend every moment of every day trying to live up to Christ’s calling in our lives?
Jesus was invited to dine with a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish elite that prided itself on its adherence to every letter of the religious laws they held so dear. Jesus clearly accepted the invitation, even though it was the Pharisees who were constantly trying to find fault with his teaching and his actions. But, as the meal began Jesus broke one of the precious Pharisaic rules: he failed to take part in the ritual ablutions that were supposed to precede every meal. We are not specifically told whether the host mentioned this faux pas or whether Jesus felt the atmosphere. Whatever the circumstances, Jesus knew that he was being criticized and judged.
We often behave in the same way as the Pharisee. We are intolerant of the way others live their lives. We compare people with the standards we impose upon ourselves. Sometimes we look down on others because we perceive their way of life to be less fastidious and ‘upright’ than ours. At other times we look down on others because we consider them to be over-fussy and bogged down in details with which we cannot be bothered. Whichever way we look at it, we so often behave just like the Pharisee in today’s reading.
Jesus’ warning is clear. Jesus tells us that we should not judge others. As we read elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus teaches that judgement belongs to God alone, and we should not forget that we, in our time, will come before our heavenly judge, just like everyone else! Jesus tells us to stop focusing on outward appearance and concentrate on being of sound heart and mind. Rather than craving the recognition of others for our ‘good works’ we should be living a life that demonstrates our faith and our total commitment to that faith.
Let us pray that we might find the strength and the peace of mind that will enable us to turn from polishing up our outward appearance in order that we might become the faithful and true disciples we are called to be. Let us set aside our human instinct to judge others and remember that we ourselves will be judged. Let us pray that we might be seen as having followed God’s path rather than that which we lay for ourselves.