August 29 – The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus had little stomach for hypocrisy. Few of us do. “Hypocrite,” is one of the harshest words in our vocabulary and is reserved for people we find particularly two-faced. One observation about hypocrites…they are usually the last to recognize that they are. No one wants to believe they are two-faced or phony. Most hypocrites are convinced they are perfectly honest. When the Pharisees condemned Jesus for working miracles on the Sabbath, they believed with all their hearts they were speaking for God. This should make us suspicious about ourselves. Are we hypocritical and don’t recognize it?
In light of today’s readings, this question merits consideration. In the reading from James, we are warned: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Practice what you preach, James says, and don’t fool yourself that you are virtuous simply because you’re fond of virtuous teachings. In the gospel, Jesus deplores the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Of what sense is their agitation over the proper washing of hands when their hearts are full of murder and hatred?
Parents often condemn activities in their teenager that they themselves have been guilty of for years. Business people complain about the crime rates among minority groups who wouldn’t have the slightest qualms about cheating on their expense accounts or involving themselves in shady deals. Even in religious circles, we may find some of the most conservative and fundamentalist Christians to also be some of the most bigoted and uncharitable people one could meet. When preachers, for example, passionately put down other Christian denominations “in the name of Jesus,” don’t you wonder what “Jesus” they are talking about?
This is not to serve as a condemnation of others, but to make us aware that hypocrisy is devious and not necessarily a vice only in someone else. When criticizing, chastising, or condemning others, we should first see if our own house is really in order. Better yet, we follow Christ more authentically when we completely give up judging and condemning others. And we have good reason for doing so when we consider the many ways we may be hypocrites ourselves.
The only way to avoid the charge of hypocrisy is to live our lives with integrity. We are one-faced when we act like Jesus, no matter how difficult it might be!
Have a blessed week!