What are my hypocrite-attitudes?

August 28, 2019 – Memorial of St. Augustine, bishop and doctor of the Church

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew (23:27-32)

Jesus said,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You build the tombs of the prophets
and adorn the memorials of the righteous, 
and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’
Thus you bear witness against yourselves
that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;
now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”

Homily

In today’s Gospel and as it was in the past few days, Jesus pointed out the danger of self-righteousness that leads to bitterness, discontentment and insecurity. There is a need to recognize our faults and sinfulness rather than undermining them by finding the fault of others in order to cover our own.

Jesus addressed the teachers of the law and the Pharisees who seemed to be so righteous, yet, sickly and sinful inside. Jesus compared them to “whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of dirt.” Jesus called them hypocrites. 

Jesus demands consistency in our words and actions, in the way we relate with others and with God. Consequently, there is a need for us to recognize our own “tombs,” which also means recognizing our own sinfulness and failures. When we choose to blind ourselves from own sinfulness and failures, then, there is a danger of making ourselves distant from God, from others and from our own reality.

It would be good then, to be reminded of the forms of denials. 

First, we will tend to overemphasize the faults of others yet; there will be no acknowledgement of our personal defects and sinfulness. This overemphasis of the faults of others is a mere cover up of one’s skeletons hidden in the closet. 

Second, there will be an air of self-righteousness and arrogance in our hearts; claiming that we are always right and good and the rest are stupid. When we ourselves are being criticized then we become violent to our critics and would even seek to destroy them. This kind of attitude boasts oneself of his or her good image but hungry of recognition and praise from people around him or her. 

Jesus does not want us to become bitter, hateful and pretentious persons but rather disciples of him who are humble enough to recognize our wrongdoings, and courageous enough to speak our own unjust and oppressive attitudes. Jesus desires that each of us becomes free by being able to recognize our sins so that transformation of hearts will be possible. It is in this way that we become of help to one another, so that as parents, leaders, mentors and authority figures, we will be leading others with honesty and sincerity. Moreover, that we may become persons who are not after recognition and praise from others, but persons who express deep gratitude to God.

And in a special way, we remember a great saint today, St. Augustine, who became a pillar in our Church doctrines. He himself struggled with his own pretentions. However, when he had the courage to face his sinful self, then, he also found God most merciful to him. His generosity, his wisdom and his commitment to be of service of others and of the whole Church sprung forth from that conversion of Augustine.

And so for today I would like to invite you to see ourselves closer and ask, what are my inconsistencies, my bitter and hypocrite-attitudes? We will only be able to answer this when we also stop pretending and will humble ourselves before God to accept our imperfections. Hopefully, when we are able to identify our attitudes that are inconsistent with our faith then that will move us to be converted back to Christ, to be closer to him. Hinaut pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR

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