Archive for September, 2008

On Hypocrisy

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

September 28, 2008

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 18: 25-28; Phil 2: 1-11; Mt 21: 28-32

Dc. Larry Brockman

Imagine.  Just imagine how furious the Chief Priests and Elders were after Jesus tells this parable.  You see, these were the people who were the spiritual leaders of the Jews.  They were looked up to as examples for the people to follow.  They were equivalent to the Pope and his Magisterium.  They interpreted the scriptures and they taught the people.  Everyone respected them.  And yet, Jesus calls them hypocrites right in front of everyone and proceeds to complement the perceived sinners of the time because Jesus says they, the sinners, listened and saw the truth, yet the Chief Priests and Elders did not see the truth.     

Why- why didn’t the Chief Priests and Elders see the real thing when it was there for them and yet the sinners did see it?  I can think of a number of reasons: Self righteousness, complacency, and pride stand out. 

When you are part of the establishment, and have “made it”; then you might have a tendency to project that you have the answers- not just a few, but all of them.  That’s self righteousness.  When you have undergone a trial, triumphed, and managed to regain control, regain stability in your life; then you can become complacent.  And when you look around at others, and perceive that you’re on the right track, but think everyone else is messed up except you; then you are proud.  These are all part of what it must have been like to be a Chief Priest or Elder.  Anything that would shake this stability, that would crack their solid foundation, their comfort as esteemed leaders, well, that would be too hard to swallow.  It would be just so much more convenient not to listen, and to remain complacent, and to be proud of your current good fortune.  In other words, you could miss the truth because you weren’t really interested in anything that disturbs your own truth.   

The sinners, on the other hand, were like people with a terrible tooth ache.  They were hurting; and in need of relief from that hurt.  So, when they heard the real truth, it was like the nerve was struck with a pick.  That truth was covered with sincerity and conviction.  That’s what people said about Jesus teachings.  And so, many of these sinners were eager to respond.  It was a matter of frame of mind.  The sinners, not the establishment, had the right frame of mind.   

Now of course, this parable is somewhat of an exaggeration.  Not all the Chief Priests and Elders were bad;and certainly, not all the sinners were good.  But the exaggeration makes an important point for us.  Namely this: just when you think you’ve been through life’s trials and have everything under control; just when you think you’ve passed through the rapids on the river and made it to the other side, think again.  In fact, that could be a great time to really listen for the truth, because it is then, when you are comfortable, that you are not in the right frame of mind to listen for the truth.  It is then that you could become a hypocrite. 

But today’s Old Testament reading gives some important insight about God’s system of justice.  You see, God’s system of Justice is always looking forward.  What is important is that we do his will always- not just yesterday, but today, and every day.  In the words of the great Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over”.  And as long as all of us are alive, it ain’t over.   

What can you do to assure that you don’t become a hypocrite like the Chief Priests and Elders?  You can strive to have the right frame of mind always.  You can strive to always be sincere from this day forward.  First, be sincere in your relationship with God.  Don’t try to impress God or put on a show for him.  Simply open your hearts to him, like little children, and he will be there for you with the truth.  Second, in your relationship with yourself.  Never lie about the reasons you do things, making false excuses or immaturely passing the buck.  Take responsibility for your own actions, good and bad,   As Christ said, the truth will set us free.  Third, be sensitive in your words to others.  It is so easy to distort the truth when you talk.  We like to flatter people, or make them admire us, and so we say things that aren’t really true.  We don’t have an obligation to tell everything to everyone, but we always have an obligation to be truthful in what we choose to say.   

During the French Revolution, a particularly harsh man, the Marquis de Condorset, tried to escape justice and the Guillotine by posing as a peasant in disguise as he worked his way to the French border.  Near the border, he looked for all the world like a peasant as he entered an Inn.  But, in front of a throng of impoverished peasants, he ordered a 12 egg omelet at that Inn, and so, gave himself away.  Life is like that.  Hypocrisy gives itself away.