Gospel: Lk 11:37-41
As Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to have a meal with him. So he went and sat at table. The Pharisee then wondered why Jesus did not first wash his hands before dinner. But the Lord said to him, “So then, you Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside yourselves you are full of greed and evil. Fools! He who made the outside, also made the inside. But according to you, by the mere giving of alms everything is made clean.“
He is invited to dinner by a Pharisee. Jesus apparently went straight into the dining area and reclined at the table prepared to eat. The Pharisee was quite shocked because Jesus had not first washed his hands before eating. Of course, we are strongly recommended to wash our hands before sitting down to eat. But here we are not dealing with a question of hygiene but of ritual washing. Jesus is deliberately making a more essential matter. A person‘s character is not to be judged by his performance or non-performance of an external rite. The host, a Pharisee was more interested in what is outside the cup while inside it is full of all kinds of selfish and evil intentions. God is as much, if not much more, concerned about the inner motivation than the external ones. Jesus suggests that they give alms to the poor and, when the inside is clean, there is no need to worry about the outside. Charitable acts are concrete gestures of kindness to another person; these are acts of love and mercy. Charity driven by mercy replaces the greed and envy in our hearts. It is not, like the washing of hands, a purely empty ritual which says little and is almost totally self-serving.
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