August 23, 2011 - Tuesday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

A pure hypocrite plays a role in public that is completely disconnected from their real life. They preach about a God who they do not believe in. They preach morality which they never even try to follow. To be a pure hypocrite requires a certain type of personality. It does not seem like the scribes and Pharisees were really pure hypocrites, although there probably were a few such among them.

Then there is the universal human experience of hypocrisy. We preach an ideal that we fail to live up to. We talk about God even though we have doubts. Although this is usually how someone gets labeled a hypocrite in modern conversation, so that those who support any morality are called hypocrites because they fail to live up to that morality, everyone can see this hypocrisy in their own life. The lesson to be drawn from it is not to give up on morality but to be careful about condemning the guilty; we may be the next to fall ourselves. Everyone deserves the love, respect, and understanding that we want for ourselves when we are guilty.

The scribes and Pharisees were guilty of this hypocrisy because we all are, and they did often fall short of extending the mercy they desired for themselves, but they were also guilty of another hypocrisy. This is the hypocrisy of those who live for an image of themselves. They are more concerned with seeming good then being good. I imagine that the scribes and Pharisees would not submit to this charge. They might tell us that they tithe mint and dill even when no one is watching, but they are mistaken. They tithe the mint and dill because they are watching themselves. A hypocrite of this kind wants to seem holy, if only to themself.

It is easy to reject the life of a pure hypocrite as despicable, but we must guard carefully against these other two hypocrisies: considering ourselves too good to commit a serious sin and hiding our serious faults behind religious practice. A Christian knows that “There but for the grace of God go I” is not just a catchphrase but profound truth, and a Christian always admits that they are a sinner in need of forgiveness. Do not be afraid to admit you have done wrong; do not defend your sins; do not be satisfied with who you are: allow God to forgive you; allow God to make you perfect.