Wednesday, August 26 ~ Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Holy Gospel: Matthew 23:27-32 Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
Meditation: Outward appearances can be deceptive. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth (Isaiah 11:3-4). The heart reveals the true intentions and attitudes that form the way we think of others and treat them. Jesus used strong language to warn the religious leaders and teachers about the vanity of outward appearance and pretense – wearing a mask that hides the true intentions and thoughts of the heart. This warning applies to all persons who identify themselves as disciples and followers of Christ, and so we must meditate on what authentic discipleship in Christ really means. It is not mere show, but an authentic way of life, in all aspects of life, day in and day out.
Prayer: O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: Jesus warns that what truly corrupts a person is not external ritual impurity but the impurity of wrong and sinful attitudes that come from within a person’s mind and heart – pride, greed, sloth, envy, hatred, gluttony, and lust. These are what produce sinful habits (vices) and ways of speaking, acting, judging, and treating others. That is why every good deed is beautiful in God’s sight and every wrong or sinful deed is ugly in his sight. The scribes and Pharisees were intensely religious in their outward observances, but their outward show didn’t match the inner reality of the state of their minds and hearts. True beauty, goodness, and piety come from within, an interior motivation from a heart that is set on pleasing God and a mind that is set on hearing and obeying God’s word, and thus the importance of having an authentic interior life rooted in Christ. Jesus came to set us free from slavery to sin and harmful habits and addictions that lead us into wrong and sinful ways of thinking, acting, and relating to others. Only the humble of heart can receive from God true wisdom and understanding, pardon and healing. The Holy Spirit is ever ready to renew our minds and hearts and to lead us in God’s way of love and holiness. Pray that the Holy Spirit will purify your heart and mind and to fill you with the power of God’s love and goodness, and thus integrate this wisdom and love into your daily life. Such integration will lead to a balanced way of life. Therefore, cultivating our interior life is a means of finding that balance. Trappist monk Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO, contextualizes this more richly in his book New Seeds of Contemplation: “This then is what it means to seek God perfectly: to withdraw from illusion and pleasure, from worldly anxieties and desires, from the works that God does not want, from a glory that is only human display; to keep my mind free from confusion in order that my liberty may be always at the disposal of His will; to entertain silence in my heart and listen for the voice of God; to cultivate an intellectual freedom from the images of created things in order to receive the secret contact of God in obscure love; to love all men as myself.” This book is a must read for those who wish to cultivate their interior life so that one may enter into a more fruitful, prayerful dialogue with God.