Memorial of St. Pope John XXIII

Scripture Readings: Gal 5:1-6;  Lk 11:37-41       

“Oh you Pharisees! You clean the outside of the cup, but inside you are filled with greed and wickedness.”  That must have hurt the Pharisee who invited Jesus to a meal in his home. 

But then Jesus softens his reproach when he says, “Give alms and everything will be clean for you.”  But is that right?  Can we buy a clean heart by giving alms?  Is that what Jesus said?  No, he actually said, “Give as alms those things that are within; and behold, everything will be clean for you.” In other words, “First clean the inside of your hearts with love and then show compassion.”   

Almsgiving is the expression of a clean heart, not the cause.  It is God who makes us clean.  So we pray, “A clean heart create for me, O God.  O wash me, then I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps 50/51). Or, as Saint Pope John XXIII once said, “Prayer is the raising of the mind to God. We must always remember this. The actual words matter less.” 

God, who always hears our prayers, washes us clean in Baptism, Reconciliation, and the Anointing of the Sick.  Then the Holy Spirit in our hearts inspires us with the right words and actions. 

In preparation for a visit from First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Pope John XXIII asked his secretary how to address her.  The secretary said he could call her “Mrs. Kennedy” or “Madame.”  The pope tried the options out loud to decide which seemed best.  Then the doors were opened and she was announced. As she entered, John smiled, opened his arms wide and exclaimed, “Jacqueline!”