Hypocrisy – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
There are times when the scribes and Pharisees can teach us a few important things. Today, for instance, the Gospel account shows the wisdom of washing hands, washing items from the market and washing cups, pots and bronze kettles. Good practical advice! Jesus and his followers would probably get publicly called out and shamed in our COVID day and age – eating with defiled hands. Who knows what they are picking up and spreading? I, for one, would be very reluctant to shake hands.
Of course, we understand the real point that Jesus is making. He is critical of hypocrisy. Isaiah says it for him: “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me …” Is there harmony between what I say and what I do? Jesus goes on to enumerate the sins that come from within, from the human heart.
We have an intimate knowledge of what lurks within and make us feel dirty. Our evil intentions defile us. Most of us do not intend to have those thoughts and feelings. They often arise from us in a moment of spontaneity.
None of us is a stranger to the sin of hypocrisy. We see illustrations daily when we hear about the lives of church leaders, politicians and businesspeople. It’s probably one of the most common sins for which we have public evidence. It’s an age when shrewd investigative reporters can dig up your statement from many years ago and place it in juxtaposition with your recent activities.
Taking a Caribbean vacation during a time of COVID quarantine? Scandalous spending in opposition to stated values from early in your career? Living in opulence, despite a stated commitment to Gospel values? Hypocrisy is so easily proved.
In my theological studies, there was a distinction between declared values and actual practice. Declared versus operative theology. What you say that you believe in, as opposed to what you actually do when confronted with the reality of a pastoral situation. I may know what Canon Law or the Catechism say about X or Y. But what is the pastoral moment calling for? Politicians and religious leaders are guilty of blurring the distinction between declared and operative.
Guess what! We all – or, at least, most of us – blur that distinction. Most of us are hypocrites. I have met very few people whose words and actions are always consistent. We use wonderful words, but our actions are not always in agreement. It comes up frequently for parents, teachers, and others who are in daily contact with young people. Do what I say, not what I do. I know that I often espouse certain values in my homilies and spiritual direction, and then, I view how I actually live.
It’s too easy for us to point to the hypocrite across from us. Let those who are without sin, cast the first stone. We are all the woman caught in adultery. If we are honest, we all know our sin. That fact calls us to be humble!