Hypocrisy Causes Spiritual Blindness

Oct 1, 2017: Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 18:25-28
Psalms 25:4-9
Philippians 2:1-11
Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus speaks this parable towards the very end of His life.

He is in Jerusalem the week before His crucifixion.

He spends His nights outside the city with His disciples and His days inside the Temple, debating with the Jewish scholars and leaders who are trying to discredit and humiliate him.

He tells this parable for them, in order to break through their blindness. These leaders, the ones who are against Jesus and who will soon arrange His death, are Palestine’s experts in religion. They are the ones who serve in the Temple, study the sacred Scriptures, preach to the crowds, and rule and govern God’s Chosen people. They claim to be God’s close collaborators, the ones who are following God’s commandments better than anyone else is. Yet, these are the very ones who fail to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Sinners and social outcasts on the other hand, like tax collectors and prostitutes, do recognize Jesus; they believe in him, and they repent from their sin.

Why are the chief priests and elders unable to see the truth?

Why do they, like the second son in the parable, say that they are God’s followers, but then refuse to obey the Messiah of God?

This is an important question for us. We are among the small percentage of Catholics who come to Sunday Mass — we are the ones who appear to be following the Lord. Therefore, we too are in danger of falling into this same blindness, of thinking that we are doing God’s will in our lives, but actually not doing it. The cause of their spiritual blindness can also become the cause of our spiritual blindness. What is this cause? Hypocrisy. Keeping up the appearances of a good Catholic, but compromising the substance.

Jesus condemned hypocrisy more energetically than any other sin.

Maybe this was because it is one of the easiest sins we can fall into.

It’s so easy to change our outward behavior in order to fit in with everyone around us.

However, it’s a losing strategy, because eventually every actor has to take off his mask.

This was especially true for the Marquis de Condorcet, a nobleman who lived in France at the time of the French Revolution. The Revolution was tough on nobility. For years, the aristocracy had exploited the common people, forcing many of them to suffer and starve while the nobles lived in luxury. With the revolution came payback. The guillotine was the method of choice for the people’s revenge. During the Revolution, many noblemen tried to escape execution by disguising themselves to slip out of the country undetected. This particular Marquis donned the ragged clothes of a peasant and attempted to make his way to the nearest border. His ploy worked until he stopped at an inn full of real peasants. The disguised nobleman walked into the inn, sat down at a table, and ordered an omelet made with a dozen eggs. That was not a smart thing to do in front of a group of people who never would have been able to afford such an extravagant meal. They immediately saw through his disguise. The nobleman’s mistake ended up sending him to prison, where he mysteriously died.

Hypocrisy is like that: we put on different disguises in order to fit in with different crowds.

In the end, however, that kind of selfish living for appearances leads to self-destruction — when we lose sight of who we really are, we also lose sight of everyone else, including God.

What is the antidote to this spiritual poison?

A basic human virtue that we love to find in other people, but that we find it hard to live ourselves: sincerity.

Hypocrisy makes us blind to God’s presence in our lives; sincerity opens the eyes of our souls to find Him everywhere.

We need to install sincerity especially in three key areas of our lives.

First, in our relationship with God. We must never try to impress God or put on a show for Him. We must simply open our hearts to Him (He knows them thoroughly already), like little children, so that He can touch our hearts with His transforming grace.

Second, in our relationship with ourselves. We must never lie to ourselves about the reasons we do things, making false excuses or immaturely passing the buck. We must take responsibility for our actions, good and bad, confident that God can fix whatever we may break. As Jesus Christ said, the truth will set us free.

Third, in our words. It is so easy to distort the truth when we talk. We like to flatter people, or make them admire us, and so we say things that aren’t really true. We don’t have an obligation to tell everything to everyone, but we always have an obligation to be truthful in what we choose to say.

In a few moments, Jesus Christ will feed us with Holy Communion.

The Eucharist can serve to strengthen our resolve to be sincere Christians, with hearts open to God’s grace, not hypocrites.

The pure, white, unleavened bread that God, through the action of our priest, will soon transform into Jesus Christ’s body and blood is also an image of sincerity.

Its beauty is in its simplicity no show, nothing fancy, just a humble host of eternal Truth.

That is exactly what every Christian is called to be.

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