View all Gospel Reflections |
Becoming a Pearl
Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.”
He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”
Then his disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit.”
Opening Prayer: Here I am Lord in your presence, offering to you this new day with its pleasant and unpleasant moments. I beg you to strengthen my faith, hope, and charity, so that on this day I may do with a loving heart what you ask of me.
- The Pharisees and the Law: The Pharisees learned from Moses to follow the law to please God and thus be faithful to the covenant. We do the same when we follow the Ten Commandments or the teachings of the Church. However, Jesus purified the law and taught us to fulfill it, not out of duty or with self-righteousness, but for pure love of God without any other personal interest, “for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Spiritual death comes from selfishness, self-justification, pride, and impurity in our actions, but the Holy Spirit can fill our actions with charity and make us worthy of eternal life. We are called to accomplish our duty with love for God. “Whatever someone does, if he does it for a temporary utility, he does it like a slave and consequently does not keep the Sabbath” (St. Augustine, Sermon 33 on the Old Testament).
- What Comes Out of the Mouth Is What Defiles One: A woman once came to me contrite because she had said some hurtful words to her husband. “Now,” she said, “we have already reconciled ourselves, but I realize that those words that I said to him have hurt me also, without knowing it.” This reality is more common in our lives than we can imagine. “The mystery of sin is composed of a twofold wound, which the sinner opens in his own side and in the relationship with his neighbor” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 117). St. James also admonishes us: “With the tongue we praise Our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10). We bridle our tongue with grace given to us by Our Lord.
- The Heart and the Pearl: When the oysters in the sea open their shells and something foreign enters, the oyster produces a slime called nacre with which it envelops the foreign object to protect itself. Thus it forms a pearl. Just as an oyster produces nacre, an authentic Christian produces virtues that protect us from sinning. We cover ourselves with the grace of God and are transformed into something beautiful. As a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we grow in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Conversing with Christ: Come Holy Spirit and open my heart and mind to understand and to accept myself so that I can better bear the fruits of the Spirit. Purify me more and more from my tendency towards sins of the tongue so that I can be another Christ among my brethren.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will avoid the temptation to gossip.
For Further Reflection: Sharpening Your Tongue, by Father John Bartunek.
Father Bernardo Torres, LC, was born and raised in Mexico City. He has certifications for couple’s therapy and currently works in Louisiana with young adults helping them to grow deeper in their faith.