Scripture Reflections

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


October 12, 2010
Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 11: 37-41

The Culture of cleanliness:

The modern society attaches premium to the virtue of cleanliness. The saying “cleanliness is next to godliness” is adopted as the gospel principle of the modern commercial enterprises and market economy. No wonder, we live in an era of cosmetic and sanitary revolution. The markets are flooded with cosmetic and sanitary products, 60 percent of the media advertisements and commercials are on cosmetic and sanitary products. The image-conscious culture of ours has a web of unwritten laws, traditions and practices regarding beautification, maintenance, sanitization and purification. The Biblical times, especially the Jewish culture was not less concerned about physical cleanliness. Jesus is confronted with such an issue, his ritual and physical impurity at the table. The irony of the episode is that the Lord who is the source of sanctifying grace is now accused of impurity by those whose hearts were shown to be unclean!

Purity—the sign of a Christian

Jesus turned the tables at an “image conscious” society by inviting them to check “what is within” even as they present a seemingly clean external. Jesus exposes the paradox of “clean periphery” and the “unclean center”. In the final analysis it becomes clear that this high culture of purity is in fact floats on the low culture of impurities. Further more, Jesus inverts the measure of purity—purity does not consists in the cleanliness of the externals, rather in the purity of the inner chamber of the heart. To be a Christian, then is to be a clean person, pure in thoughts, intentions and dealings. No wonder, Jesus has made it imperative for His disciples to wash themselves in the waters of baptism and cleansed in the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. This purity is achieved, aside from the power of the Word of God, on the strength of the rituals (sacraments) and charity.

Sacraments: the source of sanctifying grace

Rituals are part of any culture. Christian culture is rooted on sacramental rituals. The seven sacraments of the Church impart to the believer grace necessary for his/her life. The grace of sanctification is basic among the graces. In baptism the one is washed clean of all his/her sins and impurities accumulated in his life and shared from the original sin. This ritual of purity is represented by water and a white piece of cloth. It is a sacrament of re-birth, being born again as a child of God who is pure, holy and immaculate. The sacrament of reconciliation ritually sanctifies the sinner of all the impurities of his action and omission. Repentance is a necessary condition for the sanctifying grace. The Holy Eucharist allows the Christian to enter into the sacrificial grace of Christ, to wash His impurities in the blood of the Divine savior. In the Eucharist, what is impure is made pure and filled with the strength of grace that no more one may live in guilt, sin and impurity. The other sacraments (confirmation, marriage, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick) also impart to the recipient sanctifying grace along with the specific grace necessary for the state of life he/she enters.

Love: the source of sanctifying grace

Now, rituals, devoid of the spirit can remain just that—rituals. The sanctifying grace of the rituals are to be lived and practiced in the virtue of charity—selfless love. Love has the power to heal and cleanse. Any ritual without love is ineffective. Love impels one to put into act what he/she celebrates in the sacraments. Love teaches us that clean hands and clever minds are not substitute for a clean conscience. A clean conscience is the manifestation of a loving heart. The nursery rhyme “Clean little hands are nice to see” teaches the children of the beauty of cleanliness, but the “commandment of love” teaches us of the beauty of a life well founded purified in the sacrifice of love.

Purity lies in the middle. We need to avoid the extremities of ritualism and self-validation. Love and rituals are not contradictory. They compliment my life of purity.

How clean am I? Do I pay attention to the purity of my thoughts, words, intentions and dealings as much as I care for the cleanliness and grooming of my body? How often do I notice impurities in my thoughts, words, dealings and intentions? What steps do I take to cleanse my conscience and sanctify my life?

1 comment:

  1. hello Fr. James... Thank you...
    Wow... I don't how clean am I... :)
    you really give a very inspiring reflections
    and Homilies!!!
    Thank you for inspiring us too...
    have a blessed day...