Reflection for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 2, 2018
A common temptation of human beings is to imagine evil as some untamed force external to ourselves. We sometimes believe that we encounter evil out in the world and must brace ourselves for its onslaught. Even Scripture seems to support this when St. Peter cautions us to be vigilant against the deceptions of the devil, “prowling around like a roaring lion” ready to devour us. This weekend’s Gospel, however, offers us an alternative view of evil that hits much closer to home, and in fact situates the true source of evil within the human heart. Jesus confronts the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees who insist on outer ritual purity while paying little attention to the interior state of their hearts. He turns to the crowd and instructs them not to look outward to judge what is wholesome from what is improper, but to look inward to examine their own thoughts, motivations, prejudices, and habits. For all of us today, where do we stand as Jesus’ disciples when we look deep within our own hearts? Do we find a heart of compassion for friends and loved ones, mercy for those who wrong us, and welcome for the stranger? Or do we find self-centeredness, jealousy, and resentment lodged within a heart grown cold? May this new year be our invitation to rid ourselves of destructive attitudes and behaviors so as to conform our hearts completely to the heart of Christ.
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands…. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts….” He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile…. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Come, my way, my truth, my life: such a way, as gives us breath;
such a truth, as ends all strife; such a life as killeth death.
Come, my light, my feast, my strength: such a light as shows a feast;
such a feast as mends in length; such a strength as makes his guest.
Come, my joy, my love, my heart: such a joy as none can move;
such a love as none can part; such a heart as joys in love.