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Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

My dear encountered couples:

By not washing his hands before eating, Jesus was not only violating the rules of etiquette but was neglecting to carry out a religious prescription of the time. We see, however, that he was trying to point out something much more important than going through the motions of religious practices. He wanted to focus on the real intent of the religious significance of the act.

Washing your hands before eating is certainly a good idea for health reasons, but when it is a religious act there is a meaning which runs much deeper than the outward appearance of washing. That meaning can be easily forgotten while the act becomes the most important part of the performance.

Washing when connected with religion signifies the willingness to be clean inside, to be free from sin, and be intent upon changing our lives to the better. Even the water in baptism is to show that we have repented of our sinful ways and intend to try to turn our backs on them and live rightly. The priest washing his hands at Mass prays that his sins be washed away.

And so, Jesus points out to his host, the Pharisee, that what is important is to become a good person, not to merely carry out the ritual requirements of the law. Become good inside and then what we do outside will really mean something good and not be an empty gesture. I hope the Pharisee and we remember that point.

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