Wednesday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time
Robert Redford was walking one day through a hotel lobby. A woman saw him and followed him to the elevator. “Are you the real Robert Redford?” she asked him with great excitement. As the doors of the elevator closed, he replied, “Only when I am alone!”
The anecdote illustrates for us an inconvenient truth: We are our real selves only when we are alone. We are our real selves only when nobody is seeing us, we tend to project a “better self” in front of others by showing them the good we do. But that is all that there is: a show! Sa Tagalog, pakitang-tao lamang.
It is remarkable how strongly Jesus feels about hypocrisy. He hammers home his disapproval through a series of examples. Hypocrisy can undermine the virtue in almsgiving, in prayer and in fasting.
The list Jesus gives in the gospel is not exhaustive – meaning, there are many other ways by which hypocrisy sets in. Hypocrisy can spoil our kindness and generosity; it can damage our service and ministry; it can violate our sense of stewardship and mission.
According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, hypocrisy is a “form of simulation or acted lie.” “It is a simulation or pretension at its worst, for it prostitutes works of virtue to the dishonorable ends of self-glorification or monetary gain or worse.” A hypocrite appears to be good and kind, charitable and generous, pious and holy, in order to be recognized and praised by others.
This tendency to show off in the area of piety, according to Nil Guillemette, “is almost an occupational hazard for good people.” “A great temptation for a lot of devout Christians is to appear more pious than they really are.” There is a continuous temptation to play to the gallery, to turn worship into a dramatic display intended mainly to enhance one’s public image or reputation. (Nil Guillemette)
Let us ask the Lord to sensitize us to any hypocrisy that may have crept into our own lives. May we learn to carry out the good things we are supposed to do in secret. Whatever is done with sincere love will last eternally.