As a budding potter, I was fascinated by the story of a master potter who threw beautiful pieces of ware each morning and, at the end of the day, would take a stick and smash them to pieces. A man passing by each day to work in the nearby village would see the stunning pottery in the morning and the heap of rubble in the evening. He could not fathom what possessed the potter, so he eventually confronted him: “You crazy old man, why do you create such beautiful pottery in the morning and then destroy it in the evening?” “Because,” the potter replied, “I am not seeking the perfect vessel, but the perfect internal form.”
The Pharisees had codes of conduct and rituals which they considered essential to daily life and religious observance. In many ways, we are like them: we have prescriptions for how to celebrate Eucharist, how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or other devotions, how to live as a faithful Christian or Catholic, layperson or professed religious. Many of these are readily measured: people see me at Mass, I dress modestly, I don’t curse and swear, I read my Bible. It makes for attractive religious pottery!
Jesus’ concern, however, is not solely for external behaviors but also, and especially, for what is in the heart—the internal form.
Today, I imagine that I have invited Jesus to dine at my home. For what disparity between my actions and attitudes would he chide me? Where do I need to perfect—or be perfected—in my internal form, my heart-space, in order to be more like Jesus?