November 5, 2017
The Master talks about hypocrisy in the Gospel of this week. One day I asked a man, “Harris, how come I haven’t seen you in church anymore?” “There are too many hypocrites there, Father,” answered Harris.” I replied, “Don’t worry, there’s always room for one more.”
Jesus, in today's Gospel, speaks out about a situation all too familiar to believers both Jewish and Christian in any age of history. He takes up the question of official teachers who do not practice what they preach. Sadly, Jesus gives the advice that we ourselves should be good examples to others, but we must also make constant efforts to discern and receive the teaching of God's word even in the human words of those whose lives betray their teaching. In fact, Jesus goes on to point out that any claim to be a teacher of spirituality to others, any claim to special status in relation to God's word and authority, is perilous. In truth, we are all learners, all receivers, from God alone. Only God really has a parental role and only Jesus Christ has the right to teach.
I see that this passage is one of the most difficult passages to write on. It's difficult because I fail to apply it in my life. When I was ordained, Bishop Paul O’Byrne handed me a Bible and said: "My son, share with all humankind the word of God you have received with joy. Meditate on the law of God, believe what you read, teach what you believe, and put into practice what you teach." Believe what I read, yes I do. Teach what I believe, yes I do. But “put into practice” what I teach, I am not sure about that. I have tried to do it. But due to my human weaknesses, many times I fail, many times I have the tendency of being a hypocrite. I might describe myself in this way: I like to serve God and his people but I also prefer to hear compliments and to have recognition of my work. I am glad when the people say that I have done good job. I like to impress people that I am a good guy, a good priest. I ask the people to show reverence to the Eucharist, but sometimes I celebrate it without spirit. I can go on and on something like this.
In those moments, I am playing the role of the scribes and the Pharisees in today's Gospel. I am a hypocrite whom Jesus strongly condemns. How about you, brothers and sisters!
Have you ever been a hypocrite when you want people to know and to admire what you did? Have you ever commanded people, your sons, daughters, family members to do what you never practise? On this Catholic Education Sunday, you teachers, have you been a good Christian example to your students? Have you ever served and worshiped God and his people out of love, out of humility, rather than out of pride and reward?
In the family and in parish community, have you ever given witnesses to Christ by your good words and good deeds?
Is there any one to become a Catholic or an active Catholic because of your good examples? Have you ever known that Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and you are you, in your family, and in the parish, to be served or to serve?
When I ask questions in this way, you might know my intention. I want to remind you and myself that the value of Jesus' teaching is timelessly for all of us. Through the bad example of the scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus wants us to be the good example for one another by being the servants of God and his people. He is able to see beneath the appearances. He is able to see the inner person. God knows what we do and gives us what we deserve. May he find in us his true image! May we learn how to serve God and his people in love and in humility!