Tuesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Do we want to be clean, or do we want to wash? Both Paul and Jesus pose that question to their audience. One is an end, and one is a means. Perhaps the prescribed washing does help one become clean. But if one is already clean, there is no point in washing. The Pharisee who was amazed that Jesus would not wash (even though He is already clean) has missed this point. He thinks of washing as an end, something done for its own sake, when it is a means. Paul brings this to its logical conclusion–if we are to observe the Law as an end–something good in itself–we have to observe the whole thing, or it’s no good.

Very often, we can mistake means for ends. We all have projects we want to carry out and things we want to do. I want to found this group, or keep it going; I need to bring about this reform; I ought to be healthy enough to live until I’m 90. All laudable goals–so long as they make us clean, inside and out. These goals are means. Being clean, being united with God–these are ends. In the First Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius reminds us that what we need to do at the end of the day is praise God and save our souls. If the goals we want and the things we do help us to carry out those ends, wonderful. If not, however, we should do to them what Jesus did to the washing ritual in today’s Gospel–ignore it completely.

October 11th, 2016