What’s That Smell?!
22nd Sunday Ordinary Time
August 29, 2021
I once returned to the rectory after a retreat to find that the place smelled like someone had died in it while I was gone. Eventually the odor was narrowed down to something in the kitchen. I went through every drawer and shelf, one by one, until finally I found a can of peaches that had a small hole in the bottom. It was on the top shelf, and out of this hole was oozing the most awful black muck that had spread out over the shelf.
Needless to say, I got out the bleach and got to work. The can went in the trash, but can you even imagine what the smell would have been like if I had actually opened this can?! Now, you know, this can looked very good from the outside. The hole was underneath, where you couldn’t see it, but the inside of this can was full of rotten-ness.
It isn’t the way we look on the outside to others that makes us pure or impure – it’s what’s on the inside. Our society tends to emphasize looks over content. As long as we keep up the appearances of beauty and youth, as long as the house looks presentable on the outside--just don’t look inside. Yet what we say and do goes largely unexamined. How pure, really, are my thoughts and deeds in the eyes of God?
Jesus gives us a definitive list, a way to get a clue as to what is inside that can of peaches we all have within us known as our soul. And it’s not measured by what goes in – but by what comes out. What was that list we hear in this Sunday’s gospel again? Evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. So when these sorts of things are popping up in the inner kitchen of our soul or being expressed outwardly in our actions, it means there are some spoiled peaches in the pantry somewhere. The foul smell gives them away.
Sometimes what we need is to get our nose fixed. Before I discovered my allergy to dairy products, I had virtually no sense of smell. This comes in handy when you are around cows (like I was when pastor in Tillamook), but it’s much better to have this fixed. In the same way, we have to be able to recognize sin for what it really is. Pride, arrogance, adultery, blasphemy… these are ugly things. If I can’t smell them in my life, maybe I need to get my nose fixed. Start listening to the scriptures. Go to confession more often.
A good way to get a handle on this is by making an examination of conscience. Each morning when getting up, ask God to help you to be more aware of a certain area of your life that needs help. Ask God to help you with this. Then, towards the end of your day, spend a few minutes with God, looking at what went well and what did not, asking for grace.
So if there is a can of rotten peaches on the shelf of your heart, God has a remedy for you. One of them is called confession. Another is prayer. A third is a daily examination of conscience. Or – if you really want to keep that rotten can of peaches around the house, make sure and plug your nose.