to prefer the traditional Mass, but I also accept the Novus Ordo Mass. I
agree with you when you talk about abuses in the Novus
Ordo Mass. But I have had people use Matthew 23:27 (on the outside
you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and
evildoing) to justify abuses (not their word!), saying that we should
be concerned with the intent of things, not with obsessive
ceremonies. What does this Biblical passage really mean?
et us remember here that Jesus
was not some sort of Protestant Jew who took constant liberties
with Jewish tradition. Evidence from the Gospels tells us that He was careful
to observe proper ceremony in His liturgical actions.
So lets look at the text
to which you refer to see what it really says.
Woe to you, scribes and
Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside
they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first
the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean. . . . [O]n
the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy
and evildoing (Matthew 23:25-26;28).
In the passage from Matthew,
Jesus is at a private dinner, not in the Temple or in a synagogue. When He
points out to the Pharisees the difference between the outside
of a vessel and the contents inside it, He is explaining that
acts of ritual purification are entirely different from the
forgiveness from sin that He Himself offers.
clear here that Jesus is not saying that we should not care whether
our hands are clean when eating. Jesus is not saying that countless
mothers through the ages who have told their children to wash your
hands before coming to the table have been mistaken. Jesus is
not speaking about sanitary habits.
No, Jesus is not speaking about
sanitary habits. Jesus is speaking about acts of ritual purification
that the Pharisees developed as human traditions over time. Jesus
makes the point that these ritual purifications, which are themselves external
human acts, have no value to the soul. Only heartfelt contrition can purify
us because it works inwardly through the divine Sacraments that Jesus Himself
instituted in the New Covenant.
Moreover, this distinction between
outer and inner also reveals the difference between two sorts of
motivation: outwardly recognizable behaviors
that bring us praise, and, in contrast, spontaneous
love from within the heart. Its as if Jesus
were saying that things done just to demonstrate to others that you
know something (that is, making a show of cleaning
the outside of the cup) are useless compared to things done quietly, and
often unseen to others, from the purity of heartfelt love.
Here is a true example of how
this distinction can ironically play out in daily life. (Some minor details
have been altered out of compassion for the guilty.)
That Shouldnt Have Been Given
Mass, on a memorial specific to a certain religious
order, the nuns had set out, in the sacristy of the monastery, the lectionary
for their order, with the readings proper to the memorial.
The Master of Ceremonies (MC) walked in and looked at
Whats this? he wondered. This
isnt what I saw on the Internet last night for the readings of the
He looked at the texts and then remembered the memorial.
He began to study the readings, impressed with their beauty. While he was
reading, the deacon walked in and looked at the
Whats this? he said scornfully. This
isnt the Gospel that I prepared my
These are the proper readings, replied the
MC, explaining about the memorial.
I dont want them! This isnt what I
prepared for, the deacon said impatiently. Get me the regular
The nuns have it.
Well, get it from them! he snapped.
The nuns had already assembled in choir, so they had
to be disturbed, and everything was set behind a few minutes. The Mass began
with an uncomfortable tension.
The Gospel reading for the daythe reading for which
the deacon had prepared his homilywas Matthew 23:23-26.
After the Gospel reading, the deacon gave his homily.
He began by talking about how life often presents us with unexpected events
and how we need to respond to them with an inward trust in God. He continued
developing the theme of inner versus outer by making some clever
comparisons with the way certain persons, in contemporary life, focus too
much on outward appearances (including religious devotions and liturgical
fussiness), and how this attitude can work like a cancer to destroy
holiness, eating its way from the inside out.
But after the first few sentences, the MC had heard enough.
It was a clever homily, all right, but everything the deacon was saying
had been invalidated by his own behavior earlier in the sacristy.
He speaks about openness to the unexpected and
trust in God, but where were these things 15 minutes ago? the MC wondered.
If he really understood what he was saying, he would, at this very
minute, not be giving this homily, however clever it may be. He would
have set it aside in quiet humility and would
be speaking from his heart to the nuns about the meaning of this day in reference
to the readings proper to it. But instead, in his desire to make an outward
show of his cleverness, he is in danger of being consumed by the very cancer
So there you have it. Thats
the inner versus the outer that Jesus was talking about. Its
far easier to speak about something intellectually than it is to live it
from the heart. Its far easier to preach about the Gospel than
to preach the Gospel.
And, I will add, its far
easier to celebrate a Mass irreverently, thinking you are being clever, than
to celebrate a Mass with reverent attention to detail, motivated by pure,
heartfelt love for the divine mysteries that the rubrics and Tradition seek
to conserve. Catholic liturgical traditions, after all, are not human traditions
meant to ritually purify us; instead, they help us express our love for
Blessed be God in His love
for us and in our love for Him!
1. Under normal circumstances, a deacon should
not be preaching at a regular Mass if a priest is available; if the deacon
does preach, it shows that the priest is shirking his responsibility. Sadly,
thats what happened here.
2. About nine months after this event, the deacon
fell ill and nearly died. Lets say he was poisoned by the
unconscious anger (especially
resentment at his parents) brewing within