If we are to take a glance through the Gospel readings in this last week, we see how Jesus describes the Pharisees and Scribes as hypocrites several times. And today’s Gospel too is not an exception. “Well did Isaiah spoke about you hypocrites,” quoting Isaiah Jesus tells: “these people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far removed from me”. Now hypocrisy comes from the Greek word hypokrit’es meaning “a person who acts or pretends”. That is, there is no congruence between what one is and the way one behaves.
Now if we analyze human nature, we come to know that this discrepancy is actually a learned behavior over the years. For example, a child has no duplicity in it: when it feels like crying, it cries; when it feels like laughing it laughs; and when it feels angry it shows. But as we grow up we are told: “boys don’t cry”, “girls don’t shout”. Now this makes people often pretend.
Or there are other instances when our human weakness is not able to rise up to the expectations of the family, friends, or society. To overcome this, we tend to wear masks. Especially, when we hold responsible positions in the family or society, we wish to give good impressions to people, but if we are unable to do it, it makes us nervous and very often we tend to hide our true selves. We notice a disparity between what we project ourselves to be and what we are truly inside us.
Now, what is the remedy for this? One remedy probably people adopt is to continue wearing masks and go around. But that only betrays our own very selves And Jesus has strong words against such a group of people, and we heard that in the Gospel today. The second remedy that people adopt is to hide themselves or close in on themselves afraid of the world and people’s criticisms. We could call this as ‘sitting under the bushel’ mentality. But that is not what a Christian is called for. Therefore, I believe, there is a third way, which in fact Jesus also recommends: it is to reduce the gap between our outward behavior and our inner disposition. This is the path to authenticity, trying to bring about a harmony between what we are and what we reveal ourselves to be.
And how are we to achieve this? Let us go back to the example of the child – who laughs when it sees another laughing (rejoicing with those who rejoice); and cry when it is pained or when it sees the pain of others. (showing mercy and compassion to people) and depicting no duplicity in our attitude and behavior.
There is the incident told in the life of M. Teresa: one day as she walked along the streets of Calcutta she saw a woman, lying half dead, full of sores, starving and dying. MT took the woman to her hospice, washed her, changed her clothes and fed her, it seems that lady before dying told Mother, “ I do not know anything about your God, because of whom you said you are doing all these works, but I am convinced that your God is love because you love me.”
Dear friends, this is the path towards authenticity, holiness and godliness, because God is said to be a perfect harmony of what his is and what he reveals himself to be. That is why we call him unum, verum, pulchrum (oneness, truthfulness and beauty) or Satyam, sivam, sundaram.
Let us also trace this path towards authenticity and holiness in this coming week by trying to bring about a harmony between what we are inside and what we show ourselves to be outside. May God bless us all.