“The “nice people” rarely come to God; they take their moral tone from the society in which they live. Like the Pharisee in front of the temple, they believe themselves to be very respectable citizens. Elegance is their test of virtue; to them, the moral is the aesthetic, the evil is the ugly. Every move they make is dictated, not by a love of goodness, but by the influence of their age. Their intellects are cultivated—in knowledge of current events; they read only the bestsellers, but their hearts are undisciplined. They say that they would go to church if the Church were only better—but they never tell you how much better the Church must be before they will join it.” ― Fulton J. Sheen: (1895 –1979: was an American bishop (later archbishop) of the Catholic Church known for his preaching and especially his work on television and radio)
Gospel Text: (LK 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.”
One reason the requirements of the kingdom can be challenging is the necessity for us to remove our pharisaic mask. That mask is the person we pretend to be – the false outer personality that we show the world, but is contradicted within us.
The destructive aspect of our mask is our tendency to identify with it, to believe we are the person we pretend to be, and thereby remain ignorant of our real self. If we are to belong to the kingdom, this false front must go. That is the primary point of Jesus in today’s gospel.
Accepting Jesus’ challenge to shed that mask, taking the risk of being authentically ourselves is the first step in accepting God’s grace. That is the challenge Jesus bluntly places before the Pharisees, and us.