Sunday, August 30; Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

When I attended Central Catholic High School—my Dad’s alma mater—there was a dress code in place.  For example, we could wear slacks with a “continental cut” or cords without patch pockets, but never jeans or shorts to school.  All shirts had to have a collar, and ties were to be worn at school Masses.  The handbook stated that “Clothes make the man”.  While I roll my eyes at that now, I bought into it then. 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good.  Yet, there’s a downside to such an approach where how I look becomes the sole focus; and appearance everything.  Advertising and the media capitalize on this mindset.  Obsession with appearance can pose as a distraction, too, from those less attractive issues that lie beneath the surface; averting our attention from the chronic insecurity and shame we find inside.  At such moments clothes become a cover.  What did Adam and Eve do after the Fall?  They made loincloths out of leaves to cover their shame.  Vainly, we try to do just that, though it never lasts.

If my memory serves me correctly, the Benedictine monk John Main likens the spiritual search and work of prayer to ‘breaking the mirror’.  In our search for God the mirror I hold up to myself and others must be smashed; where I become less focused on appearances and more intent upon the heart of things.  When we allow that to happen, then gradually we begin to see as God sees; that kind of seeing described in the first Book of Samuel: “God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but God looks at the heart.”

In the Gospel this 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus tries to focus attention away from externals toward the essential.   He shows how those, critical of the disciples who eat without first washing their hands, are intent upon appearance which often can deceive.   What matters is that which lies within the heart.   In this passage we see religion blindly focused on externals and intent on finding fault, so much so that it misses the point of religion altogether.  This is why, here and elsewhere, Jesus’ sole intention is to expose the heart’s intention wherein there’s found the discrepancy and need for the cleansing action of grace.

Without thinking, we rashly judge another when appearance blinds us to the heart of the matter.  Often, we fail to look beyond the surface; to the depth of another.   We do this all the time.

When you see a woman dressed in a hijab or burka, what’s the first thought that springs to mind?  Is it “terrorist and 9/11”?   Or do we see a person, created in God’s image?  When we see someone covered in tattoos and adorned with body piercings what do we see? 

A few years ago, I was reading the Weekend edition to the Seattle Times and a story about Javasti Cafe.  Within it was a photo of a young woman with body piercings and tattoos.  My immediate thought was negative and critical.  As I read,  this young woman—who makes their scones—was quoted as saying how she makes  some of them for  cloistered nuns in Shoreline (the Carmelite monastery) adding, “I make them extra special for them”.  Reading her words, I felt ashamed; exposed.   I failed to see her from the heart.  Her heart was in the right place and closer to God than mine was at the time.  Rashly, I judged this woman by her appearance.  I was no better than those scribes and Pharisees who, in the Gospel,   judge the disciples for failing to wash their hands.   In that moment, I sensed such a chasm between myself and God.   The mirror I hold up to others had yet to be smashed...

May we learn to look beyond the appearance of things and see what truly matters; to see as God sees.

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

 
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