Cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean. 

Saint Monica (Memorial)

You reach for a coffee mug.   It sure looks clean, but then you discover that it hasn’t been washed properly.   There are stains and specks of leftover coffee grounds inside.   It’s not the clean mug you thought it was going to be!

The Pharisees in today’s Gospel passage (Matthew 23:26) were like that coffee mug:   clean on the outside but in need of a more careful cleansing on the inside.   By keeping up with their tithes and the other details of the Law of Moses, they were doing what they thought holy men of God ought to be doing.   And yet Jesus said they were neglecting “the weightier things of the law,” such as “mercy and fidelity” (Matthew 23:23).

Sometimes we may need cleaning up on the inside as well.   We may exert all our energy in doing godly things, but we do them with the wrong attitude or disposition.   For example, you might be serving the poor at a homeless shelter, but you find yourself judging how some of the people there got to such a low point.   Or maybe you are attending daily Mass, but instead of listening to the readings, you find yourself criticizing the way the lector speaks.   You don’t mean for these thoughts to rise up in you, but they sneak in anyway!

Of course, Jesus is always pleased when you serve the poor or spend time worshipping him.   He also knows that none of us can control every thought that comes into our minds.   But you can do something.   Whenever you realize that your attitude has wandered out of line, stop right away and ask the Lord for forgiveness.   He knows you well, and he knows that you are trying to please him.   He will be merciful and help you the next time you are tempted by judgmental, critical, or resentful thoughts.   He may even flood your heart at that moment with love for the person you are judging!

You can be clean both on the inside and outside.   Turn to Jesus and trust that he can—and will—change your heart to become more like his.

“Father, give me a heart like Jesus, filled with love and mercy!”

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Psalm 139:1-6

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