“Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?” Christ confronts the Pharisees with this question in a passage from Luke’s Gospel read recently at daily Mass (11:40). I have always understood it as a denunciation of hypocrisy — the Pharisees spend a lot of time ceremonially washing objects but lack interior purity — but, this time, the passage struck me in a deeper way. In full it reads: “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
There is something very special about the moments when Christ speaks about His Father — for example, “Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Luke 10:2). A great divine wink hides among the words, since Christ is talking not about someone alien to Him but Someone with whom, in fact, He shares the divine nature!
In Luke 11:40, Christ speaks about His Father as a “maker.” The Father’s “making” always involves Christ Himself, the Word, through whom all things were made (John 1:3). Here in Luke, Christ reminds us that the Trinity made the interior of the human being. Man is not simply an object like those the Pharisees scrupulously wash; man has a rich interiority, a whole inner world of emotions and ideas and desires that are only partially visible exteriorly. That interiority is created by and for Love — Love who stands before the Pharisees, begging for the alms of their answering love.
In this month of the Rosary, we should turn to Our Lady as our guide to the interior life. What is going on in our head during the day? Do we lift our minds to the One who begs the alms of our love? Mary can teach us to do so. She lived each day with the knowledge that God was present to her at every moment; she lived in love and obedience to His will. She spoke to Him interiorly: in praise, in petition, in thanksgiving, in sorrow for sin — though not her own, of course!
The Rosary is a devotion that can foster this prayerful interiority; it masterfully addresses the needs of the human being, who has both an “outside” and an “inside.” The beads give us something to do with our hands, something to calm us, and also something to free our minds from counting the prayers so that we can, with Mary, “treasure the things [God has done], pondering them in [our] heart” (cf. Luke 2:19).
As we pray the mysteries of the Rosary, we learn to ponder the work of God in the world’s history and in our own personal story. Mary did this often, allowing the Holy Spirit to infuse her memory with His radiance. And from the interior treasury of her communing with God flowed alms for her neighbor — for example, her visit of charity to Zechariah and Elizabeth.
If we give God the alms of our attention interiorly, we will also find ourselves strengthened to see and respond to our neighbor’s need — and will discover that “behold, everything is made clean for us” by the purifying fire that is the Holy Spirit.
Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.