Wash your hearts

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Jonjee C. Sumpaico, S.J. (The Philippine Star) - August 29, 2015 - 10:00am

Television has bombarded us with the constant reminder to wash our hands. The classic image that we have is the soap advertisement when a mother is reminded by her “conscience” to choose the better soap that will benefit her family more. The practice is done across cultures, not only for practical purposes, but also for the purposes of following rituals as well.

We have always been reminded by a lot of people to wash our hands as we engage in different activities. Children are asked to wash their hands before they eat. Cooks wash their hands before cooking. Doctors wash their hands before they meet their patients. Even priests wash their hands as they celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

In fact, there is nothing wrong in washing one’s hands. It is good to wash our hands! The problem that Jesus points out lies in the blind obligation that the Pharisees impose on the people to wash their hands because they have to. Jesus accuses them of “putting aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.” He points out to us the more important part of ourselves to clean – our hearts.

While the commandments given by God were clearly given through Moses to the people of Israel, Jesus shares a spirituality that looks into the interior movements of one’s heart, rather than the appearance that one sees from the outside. This is a tough matter to take in as the Pharisees were brought up in a tradition that focuses on outward practice. They were accustomed to look at the externals when the more important thing was to guide the people to reflect on the commandment of love that was etched in their hearts.

The commandments were given so that those who follow God may be able to practice love. We remember, we celebrate, we believe in love. But this can be misleading if we fail to look within. Because when one comes to reflect on how things really are, love remembers us. Love celebrates us. Love believes in us, because love is the deepest name of God. God loves us first — without any conditions.

When one begins to count the actions that one does, he begins to quantify the cost of what he has given. When one begins to mislead himself and believes that the act of loving begins from himself, then he fails to see the greater scheme of things. One who loves truly does not keep a record of the things that he has done, rather he gives of himself freely as he knows that he has been loved first. Hindi nagbibilang ang tunay na nagmamahal!

In the end, Jesus is trying to say to the Pharisees, to wash their hearts. To put order in our hearts, we might have to begin to surrender to that loving fact that God makes the first move of loving everyone. Those who understand this are blessed. Those who have grateful hearts are blessed even more as they are invited to share the love that they have encountered. This is genuine loving.

The Good News of today makes us appreciate the prayer of surrender written by St. Ignatius of Loyola when he said:

“Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. To You, Lord, I return it. All is Yours, dispose of it wholly according to Your will. Give me your love and your grace, for this is sufficient for me.”

Believe that you are much loved. And may the blessings given to you be also blessings given through you.

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