Jesus speaks very harsh words to the scribes and Pharisees in today’s gospel. My first reaction is to put quite a bit of distance between myself and them. I even go so far as to thank God that I am not like them. But upon further thought, maybe I am missing the opportunity to grow and come closer to God. Maybe I am not being totally honest with myself.

In the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius has us pray for a profound sense of, and sorrow for our own sinfulness. When I do this, the words of Jesus come home to me. While I don’t intend to make a public confession, I do realize where I have allowed evil and sin to become part of what I say and do and think. I realize that I have often been less than a good steward of the wonderful gifts God has given me. I realize that while outwardly appearing righteous, there is hypocrisy and evildoing inside.

Thank goodness the First Week does not end there. We also contemplate God, the source of all life and love. We contemplate all of God’s creation which gives us life and strength. We contemplate all the people God puts in our lives, who love us so much. We are filled with wonder at all the ways God shows His forgiving love to us. Responding to His love and grace, we want to rid ourselves of the evil and sin in our lives. We give thanks for God’s unconditional love and grace.

—David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for
 Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits