Grace to you!
The entire chapter of the Gospel of Matthew 23 was devoted to how Jesus denounced hypocrisy. Though the Lord was talking to the Scribes and Pharisees of his time, he addresses us too.
Hypocrisy is a pattern of life that lives a lie. I call it a behavioral lie in which our actions, more often than not, aren't consistent with our words. In simple, more general terms, it's a lack of integrity of character with a false display of innocence. In other words, it is living a lie but wearing the cloth of integrity.
A non-hypocritical life does not necessarily mean the person is a saint or holy. No one is perfect or holy except God, as Scripture teaches us (I Sam 2:2). "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). Lent would be meaningless if we were perfect people, those who have not fallen short of divine expectations.
Instead, a non-hypocritical life is the one that is truthful about our true self. Such asks for the grace of renewal. At the root of it is humble honesty as opposed to willful lies of deceit or self-righteousness.
Because we recognize how much we need the grace of God, it shapes the way we come across. Not as holier-than-thou or as flat-out liars. Humility and sincerity make us heaven's favorites.
Hypocrisy is one of the greatest scandals of our time. We shall be leading a fruitful Lenten season if we look inward, inside our hearts and souls. As we do, we examine our hearts to know how truthful we are about our weaknesses, and how open we are about God's transforming renewal. Let us not be distracted by externalism and excessive social activism. These tend to make us lose sight of self-examination. Some moments of quiet and introspection help plenty.
It is one of the reasons I love contemplation, the Catholic practice of examination of conscience, as well as Confession.
Contemplation enables us to look inward and have a glimpse of how God sees us. It creates for us, sober moments of self-examination. It takes us away from the external voices that sing our praises and makes us look our true self in the mirror of truth. It is healthy for growth.
Examination of conscience leads us to the details of our thoughts, words, and actions within a record time. It reveals, by the Spirit of God, where our need is for mercy and strengthening.
From Saint Ignatius of Loyola, we learn a unique brand of inner examination. It is what he called particular examen, a popular practice in the Jesuit tradition. In it, we get to the roots of a specific weakness in our lives and explore how we have become vulnerable to it. It makes us follow the trail of that weakness, and the Lord reveals to us how we can overcome. Ultimately, a truthful particular examen opens us to victory over that particular vice. Which means, we cultivate more virtue, the very opposite of it.
Confession, in an even deeper way, enables us to look at our nakedness in the light of God's holiness and mercy. Once, a friend who was avoiding going to Confession told me she had a different feeling when she finally went. It was like, "I was completely stripped naked; there was no hiding place. It made me humble," she said.
So, there could be three tools to humbling introspection: Contemplation, Examination of Conscience, and Confession (CEC). Two virtuous mechanisms for replacing hypocrisy, namely Humility and Honesty (HH).
May we try to apply these CEC and HH in our Lenten journey. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday, Lent, Weekday Week 2: Is. 1:10,16-20; Mt. 23:1-12]
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.