In scripture, we often read about confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees in which Jesus is pointing out the fallacy of the Pharisees’ focus on the comparatively less important concern of the washing of hands and eating utensils, while they seemed unconcerned about the fact that they were, as Jesus tells them, “full of greed and wickedness.” In this way, we are reminded that we should never allow ourselves to ignore our spiritual purity. Of course, we should not be using unclean cooking utensils or forgetting to wash our hands, but beyond these outward attempts at cleanliness, we must also ensure the inward cleanliness of our souls. The Pharisees had developed several worldly rules which were for the good of the health of the people, and this was good. But unfortunately in their focus on exterior cleanliness, they lost focus on the need to maintain internal, spiritual purity.
In much the same way as the Pharisees were concerned about the outward purity of their hands, and eating utensils, I am worried that there are many in our society today who, out of fear of the Covid-19 virus, has become solely concerned with worldly impurities, forgetting the spiritual ones and the need to maintain immunity to these issues as well. People are very quick to point out how they have to be careful about catching this virus, and that is, indeed, true, but like the Pharisees, some may have allowed their focus on this virus to overshadow the fact that we must also be purifying our spiritual selves as well. As much as we need to be strengthening each other within our homes during this difficult time, we also need to be strengthening our brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Church. As much as we need to be thankful for the medical personnel and health professionals who are guiding us through this pandemic, we also need to be thankful for all the spiritual guidance that God has given us, and to take the time to adore him. And as much as we need to have clean food in our houses, we also need to have the spiritual nourishment of the Word of God, and the Eucharist.
In all of the incidents between Jesus and the Pharisees, Jesus never told them to quit sanitizing their eating utensils and washing their hands. In fact, on one occasion he told them, “For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced.” And then he added, “Without neglecting the others.” Jesus was warning them, and us, that we must stress the importance of building our spiritual wellbeing, but we should do this without neglecting the many rules that protect our health.
Fr. Edward Gibney