Hypocrisy is defined as engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one also criticizes. The pharisees were often called out by Jesus as being hypocrites – they were quick to point out transgressions of Jewish Law but were not faithful observers of Law themselves. Have you ever been called a hypocrite – maybe because you go to Mass but said or did something wrong to offend or hurt someone? I have … and I can tell you that being called a hypocrite is not pleasant – especially aimed at a priest. The word ‘hypocrite’ is a Greek term that means ‘actor’ …. What exactly is Jesus saying here?
This is the third major section of St Luke’s version St. Matthew’s Sermon on Mount – here called the Sermon on the Plain. Commentators agree that these parables were probably addressed more for teachers of the faith yet could easily be applied to disciples as well. Often Jesus uses extreme imagery and language to make a point. Splinters and logs represent our faults. Our efforts to be a guide for others, to be good disciples, or even to be “speck removers” for our neighbors requires a good heart – integrity of character.
At the heart of this message is authenticity. An actor plays a role, pretends to be someone he or she is not in reality. Being called a hypocrite doesn’t necessarily mean that we are pretending to be Catholic … yet, at the same time, if we are going to call ourselves Catholics we ought to do Catholic things – Mass, confession, prayer. We cannot just be Catholic on Sunday but must be Catholic everyday… The message here is that the world does not define our lives but God does … As such – He is the judge of our actions and our actions or choices must come from a place of a sincere desire to please God and to love Him. We are not always going to get it right but that does not make us hypocrites – it makes us human, sinners in need of God’s mercy. Jesus is inviting us to see the world, to see others, from a place of humility … from a place of sincerity, integrity, and good character.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the start of the Season of Lent. Pope Francis has asked that we offer this day up in prayer and fasting for our brothers and sisters of Ukraine … with this in mind, let’s get Lent off on the right foot –aware of the needs and difficulties of others, praying for them and uniting ourselves to them through the Holy Spirit. This could be just what we need to jump start Lent and bring spiritual renewal into our hearts.