While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today’s reading is perfectly suited for the Feast of St. Teresa of Ávila. A contemporary of St. Ignatius Loyola, Teresa (1515-1582) left her family at age 20 and joined the Carmelites in Ávila, Spain, to pursue a life of prayer and purification. She experienced visions, founded the Convent of Saint Joseph, and wrote several spiritual classics, including The Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle.
As if speaking to the Pharisee, she observed, “Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.”
The gospels constantly remind us that what we focus on multiplies. If we put our stock in fleeting externals, we’ll never be satisfied.
But if we tend to our interior life and connect to the Source through prayer, we will have life, and have it abundantly. “The tree that is beside the running water,” says St. Teresa, “is fresher and gives more fruit.”
In what ways do I focus too heavily on externals? How might I redirect my attention to what matters most? How can I be like the healthy tree that provides fruit to the world?
—Jeremy Langford is the director of communications for the Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits and author of Seeds of Faith: Practices to Grow a Healthy Spiritual Life