August 29, 2021 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/082921.cfm)
What is more important: Conscience OR Reputations?
The famous comic actor Charlie Chaplin once said: “Worry more about your conscience than your reputation, because your conscience is what you are, your reputation is what others think of you. And what others think of you is their problem.”
These words of wisdom are lesson Charlie Chaplin must have learned in life, and not out of joke or humor. Somehow this is his way of telling and teaching us that whatever happens in life, we must take care of our own conscience rather than our reputation. Thus, we must give importance to what and who we are, rather than what others think and say about us.
If you really come to think of us, in our world today we may say much is given value to our reputations than our conscience nowadays. Much has been promoted in life about building our reputation rather than forming our own consciences. Many, if not most of us, define ourselves by what others think and say about us, rather than what and who we really are; and we do tend to judge others by what others think and say about them than what and who they really are. People have been and can fall victims of thinking more about what will people say about them, rather than what they think is right and just for themselves. In other words, people do tend to be more pre-occupied with building and protecting their reputations, rather than forming and honoring their consciences. And rightly so, as Charlie Chaplin suggest, this mentality should not be the right thinking and approach in life. It should rather be conscience first, instead of reputation over conscience.
Our gospel today is also all about reputation and conscience. As Jesus warms his disciples then about hypocrisy and hypocrites, Jesus teaches also us now that the tendency to over-emphasize reputations over our conscience is Hypocrisy. For Jesus, hypocrites are people who do things for the show – that is for what others will say and think of them. They are more concern in cleaning their hands and cups but not their hearts; more sensitive with what comes from the outside but not what come out from within. (Icing than the cake, make-up than the face, clothing than the body, packaging than the content, wrappings than the gift). Not honoring then your conscience and what and who you are, but being more concern with your reputation and what will people say and think of you is Hypocrisy. And Jesus is warning us never to fall into hypocrisy and not to be hypocrites.
Here Jesus is also teaching us to detect hypocrisy and hypocrites in us and in others by our over-concern for reputation over and above our conscience. Whenever we give importance and become conscious more of what will people think and say about us, we fall into hypocrisy and becoming hypocrites. Whenever we find ourselves more concern about building and protecting our reputation, we fall into hypocrisy and becoming hypocrites ourselves. And whenever we find ourselves compromising our conscience for the sake of public approval and recognition, we fall into hypocrisy and becoming hypocrites ourselves.
Although we might be easily fall into this mentality, we do have the capacity to detect and discern hypocrisy in us. At times we do come up to conclusions about ourselves and others like: Magpakatoo ka Brother, (Be True, my brother). Maganda nga pero pangit ang ugali (Pretty but bad personality). Mabuti ang kalagayan pero masama naman ang kalooban. (Well-off but bad person). Mayaman pero walang hiya at modo (Intelligent but disrespectful and shameless). We do have the instinct to read people who are hypocrites, and hypocrisy in us. So, beware of hypocrisy and of hypocrites in us and in others.
To avoid hypocrisy in us, we must learn how to grow in righteousness. Righteousness is having right relations with God, others & oneself. It is all about forming, following, and honoring our conscience – what and who we really are. We should thus be more concern about cleaning our hearts and what is coming within us, and be true to who and what we really are. For what is conscience? As Thomas Merton says: “Conscience is the light by which we interpret God’s will for us in life.” Meaning, our conscience is the very working OS (operation system) for us to access, know, and communicate with God’s will for us – thus our access or signal to God. Our concern then should be strengthening and growing our consciences.
Again as Charlie Chaplin would say: “Worry more about your conscience than your reputation, because your conscience is what you are, your reputation is what others think of you. And what others think of you is their problem.” In other words, Make your conscience as your primary concern in life… the rest is other’s problem. Remember then that God loves us not by our reputations but by our conscience.
Especially during these trying times of pandemic, Help us O Lord to pay much attention to God’s still and small voice speaking in our hearts, and thus we can righteously live life in a way that will keep our consciences free and clear before God, now and forever. Amen.