Grace to you!
In today's reflection, I draw from the Lord's teaching from the Gospel of Matthew 23:23-26 and reflect on the need to avoid hypocrisy.
A woman made a new friend. The first impression was striking. Before long, a relationship had started to develop. It appeared both wanted a life-long commitment. A few dinners together seemed to reinforce their first impression.
As some people do, they started to share their favorite pictures—favorite places they had been to, their homes, their family portraits, etc.
The man showed a picture of his house. It was lovely, located in a nice neighborhood. The lawn was well-manicured. The lady couldn't wait to visit her friend. She couldn't stop dreaming of a beautiful family with kids in a beautiful home that seemed ordered. The invitation to visit was gladly welcomed.
When she stepped into the home, she couldn't believe what she saw. It was in a mess—filthy, stinking, cluttered with junky stuff, and crumbling ceilings. The bathrooms, probably made of white Italian tiles, had accumulated so much dirt that they wore the look of brown dirt slabs of the Stone Age. It was a disaster.
What was shocking to her was the disparity between appearance and reality; between a man whose shoes were well polished, the shirts and pants well ironed, a home well put together from the outside, but the inside was like a junkyard. It was like the metaphor of the whitewashed tomb, which the Lord used a coupled of times in Scripture to describe hypocrisy.
The above picture is a fair depiction of hypocrisy. Ever wonder why the Lord never spared condemning hypocrisy?
Of all his conversations in the Bible, anyone that touches on hypocrisy seems to have the Lord's strongest condemnation. To be sure, the Lord demonstrates a soft spot for all sinners and all who sincerely seek help. He doesn't seem to care as much about people's past as he cares about how to lead them to a better future. But when it comes to hypocrisy, the Lord seems to throw politeness to the backyard. He gave the hypocrites straight talk.
For instance, in Matthew 23, the Lord has a litany of criticisms against the Scribes and the Pharisees he was addressing. It was due to their hypocrisy. He condemned them for following rigorous rites while ignoring the weightier things of God's law—judgment, mercy, and fidelity (Matthew 23:24). He rebuked them for cleaning the outside cup, that is, appearing holy from the outside, whereas on the inside, they were "full of plunder and self-indulgence" (Mt 23:25).
Let's be clear about this. All are sinners, but not every sinner is a hypocrite. Sometimes, one may not be certain where the lines are drawn. Suppose you commit the same sins over and over again, and yet confess them again and again, aren't you a hypocrite? Some may argue.
I don't think so. The evil of hypocrisy isn't because we sin. It is because we claim we don't sin while we willfully sin and deliberately engaged in a cover-up or project the false persona of a "holier-than-thou" triumphalism.
The difference between a hypocrite and a sinner is that the sinner knows his or her weaknesses and works hard, cooperating with God's grace to fight on to overcome them. On the other hand, the hypocrite believes that inner transformation isn't necessary, provided people see us as good or as saints.
While the sinner looks inward for inner conversion, hypocrites look outward for people's praise and commendation. Meanwhile, they do the opposite of what they criticize or what they claim to hate. Hypocrites set high standards for others but apply a different scale for themselves.
I would rather be a sinner asking for mercy than a hypocrite placed on the platform of pretentious glory. Such glory doesn't last.
The hypocrite could also be redeemed. The route to redemption is the way so spoken by the Book of Psalms; "A humble, contrite heart, the Lord does not reject" (Psalm 51:17).
The person who is so loved by God is the person who is not ashamed to say, "I am a sinner," "I am sorry," "I am weak." "I need the Redeemer because there is something to be redeemed."
May you pray with me: Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday Week 21: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 A, 14-17; Matthew 23:23–26]
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Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.