Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Galatians 5:1-6; Luke 11:37-41)

Take a look under the hood of a car in a used car lot, and you are likely to be surprised. The engine and other mechanisms often are pressure sprayed so that they look like new. Of course, how well these pieces work should be tested. In today's gospel Jesus comments on an analogous case of clean outsides and rotten insides.

From reading the gospels there almost seems to be a war going on between Jesus and the Pharisees. Obviously Jesus criticizes some of their ways, but he probably enjoyed the company of some, like the man whose house he is visiting, and found a zeal for the law in common with most of them. In today's passage he addresses the supercilious concern with cleanliness that goes beyond what the law requires. As he implies, looks are nothing in comparison with reality. A person’s character should no more be judged by his or her manicure, than a book should be judged by its cover.

And yet we insist that people wash their hands before coming to church and that they wear clean clothes. Are these demands "pharisaical"? Normally they are not. First, it is a matter of hygiene. Cleanliness bespeaks the absence of at least some harmful germs. Second, outer appearance often symbolizes the state of the soul. We dress up to go to church to indicate that we have put on Christ. Jesus was a practical man. As his disciples, we will wash ourselves regularly if possible, but we generally do not go overboard with extra rinsing or refusing to shake hands with another before we eat.