Wednesday, 21st Week in Ordinary Time
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites…”
A number of things might pop to mind when we hear the word hypocrite. Maybe it is a politician caught in a scandal. Maybe it is a priest doing something counter to his preaching. Maybe it is a scheming and conniving character in a soap opera.
The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites which means “an actor or a stage player.” The actors in ancient Greek theater wore masks while playing their characters. They interpreted the story behind their masks. The Greek word took on an extended meaning to refer to any person who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they were not. Eventually hypokrites referred to “someone who pretends to be morally good or pious in order to deceive others.”
The truth of the matter is that all of us wear masks from time to time. On occasion we all play the hypocrite. Certainly, I am conscious of that. Every time I talk about taking up the cross and following Jesus, I am confronted with the question of how much faith costs me and whether I am giving my all to the Lord. The critics are right: the church is full of hypocrites. The more conscious you are of Christ’s call, the more you are aware of how inadequate your own witness is.
However, there is something else that needs to be said: Be careful about judging other people by the masks they wear. This is a different perspective on wearing masks. For example, young people often try on many ‘masks’ as they seek to determine an authentic identity. Their clothes, their accessories, their piercings, their tattoos, their language, their music – all these are masks. Be careful of judging people on their outward appearance. We all wear masks of one kind or another.
The scribes and Pharisees were wearing masks. They were pretending a piety they did not possess. Who among us had not done the same thing?
Here is the important thing we need to see or remember: regardless of the masks we wear, we cannot fool God. Regardless of what kind of mask we choose to put on, God knows us as we really are. God sees our hearts. God knows our real priorities. God sees behind the mask.