Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Open Your Hearts

Memorial of Saint Monica

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Jesus said:  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.  Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evil doing. (Matthew 23:27-28)

Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways!  (Psalm 128:1)

When someone calls out, “Woe to you,” we know the rest isn’t likely to be good!  In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has entered Jerusalem for the final time.  The crowds have cheered, sung hosannas and waved their palm branches.  Jesus has swept the money changers out of the temple, told some more parables, slipped out of the Pharisees’ trap on paying taxes to Caesar, and sparred with the Sadducees about whether or not there would be a resurrection from the dead.  Things have heated up and the Pharisees try a couple more times to entrap him. 

I guess Jesus has had it with the Pharisees and their friends.  Maybe he figures the end is near anyway, so he has nothing to lose by telling it like it is.  He begins in a series of seven woes addressed to them.  In today’s reading the Lord says they are like whitewashed tombstones whose pristine exteriors unsuccessfully seek to cover what lies beneath – death and decay.  As my grandmother always used to say, “Beauty is only skin deep; it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”  What lies inside the Pharisees’ hearts - self-righteousness, pride and contempt for others – isn’t pretty.

I wouldn’t spend too much time on the Pharisees, though, because we’ve got our own disparities to deal with.  The images we project to the world are frequently at odds with what lies beneath the surface of our lives.  Who hasn’t put on a pleasant face when inside we were boiling with anger?  Who hasn’t put on a stiff upper lip when inside we wanted to collapse in tears?  Or put something in the collection basket, when inside we were resenting giving every penny of it?  Summoned up what passed for a kind expression when inside we were feeling pity and contempt for another?   

Jesus came to make us whole.  He came to redeem whatever it is inside each of us that we seek to hide.  The Lord tried to do this for the Pharisees, but they refused to open their hearts to him.  Today, he invites every one of us into an intimate prayer relationship with him, a quiet place where we are wrapped in his love, a place where we, in turn, allow ourselves to fall in love with him, a place where our hearts are slowly transformed over our lifetimes as we steep in that Divine Love.

What face do you like to present to the world?  How do you want people to see you?  What is it in you that is incongruent with your projected image?  Or what part of you do you seek to hide from others?  Offer that aspect of yourself to Jesus in prayer and ask him to transform it and make you whole. 

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