On Washing Dishes and Cleaning Hearts

Given the recent discussions about the newly announced restrictions on Communion under both kinds in the dioceses of Phoenix and Madison, it seems more-than providential that today’s Gospel be the encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees about the ritual practices of washing, who needs to wash, when and with whom. Jesus here shirks the strictures of his faith’s juridical extremism as manifested in the accusations levels against him by the religious leaders of his day. Jesus’s response to the critics continues to speak through the centuries and challenge us today to be much more discerning about what it is we are scrupulous about (the cleanliness of our hearts, for example) in the face of the concerns of our day.

After Jesus had spoken,
a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home.
He entered and reclined at table to eat.
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
You fools!
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?
But as to what is within, give alms,
and behold, everything will be clean for you.” (Luke 11:37-41)

What does this Gospel passage have to say to us today about the matter that has received so much recent attention? It strikes me that the admonition offered by Jesus to the religious leaders of his day deserves to be echoed to the religious leaders who bear His name in our own day. Those who concern themselves with the exterior, with the minutia of juridical scrupulosity, with matters that prioritize objects over people and exclusivity over communion, should take note of the Word of God we hear proclaimed today.

Jesus does not say that cleaning the outside of the cup and dish (or who cleans today’s sacred vessels) isn’t a matter of concern, but he does challenge the prioritization of certain practices to the exclusion or subjugation of others. What does it mean to follow in the footprints of Jesus Christ today? Does the Word of God not continue to challenge our own religious structures and laws? Do we find ourselves on the side of the juridically minded Pharisees or the people-focused Jesus?

Photo: Stock

2 Responses to “On Washing Dishes and Cleaning Hearts”

  1. I find this one of the most difficult changes in recent years, that so many churches no longer offer communion under both species. The gift given, then taken away.

  2. Matthew M. Says:

    Deacon,

    I can agree that perhaps the pastoral delivery is definitely not the best, there is at times a practical nature for not receiving under both species. The historic parishes for example, do not make it logistically practical to receive both for the Sunday Mass, and certainly not high holy days. This is certainly not the case in post V2 constructed churches, or those that have have been striped of anything traditional (e.g. rails).

    Aside from the form in which the Bishops discussed the topic, I would submit that perhaps we might look at why? Perhaps, it is actually in an attempt to restore a little more reverance and respect to the mass. How many people actually stay kneeling until the vessels are cleaned (if done so immediately, before the final blessing?) Because of modernity, I would suggest that some of the awe and mystery has been replaced by human convenience. Some parishes gather all the vessels and have the Sacristan purify them? Is not the Presence of the Sacred Body and Body not still exposed? Our new parish priest is very strict that only he cleans the vessels.

    And, even worse, how many people have carried on full conversations during the mass, homily or even during the actual Sacrifice of the Mass (which BTW I witnessed from some religious!),

    I think that without clearly stating reasons behind actions, it always leads to misinterruptation of the intent.

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