“Go wash your hands before you eat”. How many parents don’t sound like broken record around meal time? Most often it is a case of hygiene, literally our hands were/are dirty. In our Gospel today, the case is different. Washing hands has nothing to do with literal dirt; rather it has to do with inner purity. Keeping the precepts, an external act, is indicative of internal conformity to God. Not keeping precepts is indicative of a broken relationship with God and results in the kinds of behaviors Jesus mentions at the end of our Gospel.
Hurtful and destructive behavior comes from within the heart. So central to our Gospel is the question, where does the heart lie? Jesus calls us to examine our behaviors and look at what in our hearts gives rise to our actions. When our hearts are focused on God, our actions are loving and good.
Discerning where our hearts truly lie is not always so easy. Fruitful discernment comes from personal prayer and reflection, from listening to others, examining our motives, opening ourselves to change and putting ourselves in another’s shoes to wake up to how we come across to others. Conversion of heart is crucial because it is of life or death.
It is relatively easy to change outward things about ourselves, for example a hair style But to change a lifestyle, for example, a healthy diet, stopping smoking, requires consistent lifelong effort. So too to do te work of intertior transformation so that our interior intentions and external actions match up.
The real challenge is to surrender to God’s action deep within us and allow that interiorization of our identity and relationship with God to e expressed in our actions. The dying and rising, the paschal mystery, urge that our interior and extetrior selves be thge same. Only when our actions witness to hearts turned toward God can we be “pure”.
Conversion is not easy or swiftly achieved. The process does ensure us life in God and right relationships with each other.