The Lord said to him, “Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools” (Lk 11:39).
Jesus’ harshest critiques were for acts of hypocrisy. He did so to show, in no uncertain terms, how dangerous this was, especially for religious leaders. These men were entrusted with the care of God’s people. They may have observed the proper rituals, spoke, and dressed to match the part, but this all meant nothing if their hearts were hardened and they were closed to the will of God. Most of all the danger was when they themselves became obstacles, stumbling blocks to those who sought God. Jesus indicting them as fools meant that they were bereft of the wisdom of God they projected to have.
A recent Pew study tracing religious affiliation from 2007 to 2014 found that approximately 56 million Americans identify themselves as following no religious affiliation. Some have labeled this group as the “Nones”. I am sure the context and nuance of why this trend is on the rise has many components, but I believe one ingredient is that many feel they have witnessed unacceptable levels of hypocrisy that have turned them off to organized faith traditions. Our present crisis regarding abuse of minors and cover up within the Catholic Church itself by religious, priests, and bishops, continue to support this trend. That the very leaders commissioned to bring the Good News, guide, and protect seekers have instead abused anyone is horrific and unconscionable.
In the depths of our very being we seek and yearn for the transcendent, the infinite. We are spiritual seekers, yet, time and again, we experience suffering, injustice, and hypocrisy at the hands of the very ones who are our leaders in both the religious and political sphere. Jesus got this, and this is why he convicted those who abused their positions, because he knew the significant damage that could be inflicted on the believer.
We as people of faith must first and foremost recognize that we live in a fallen world. No one is perfect, even and especially our leaders. We all fall short of the perfection of Christ we seek and aspire to. If we put anyone up on a pedestal they, sooner or later, are going to fall, and the higher up they go, the greater the fall. God is to hold priority of place before all and anyone else. Also, our actions must follow Jesus’ lead of resisting the urge to project all is well and good, that we are fine, when we are not, and none of us are all of the time. None of us are super men or women. If we think we can go it alone, we will fall sooner or later.
Jesus invites each of us to experience transformation. To receive this gift we need to seek help from God, the true source of our very being and existence. We must be people of courage allowing the light of Jesus to shine upon those dark places of sin within our souls, and be willing to see that which needs healing so as to release our own “plunder and evil”, which we harbor within. We need to open ourselves to the love of the Holy Spirit so to risk, to trust one another with our weaknesses, faults, and shortcomings. We need to resist hiding and rationalizing, and instead be humble and transparent, if we are ever going to be able to heal and mature spiritually.
In a posture of humility and openness to be helped, we allow the unique gifts of others to come to the fore. At the same time we need to offer what we uniquely can give, not judging another who has fallen, but providing empathy, support, and encouragement so they too can heal and grow. When we are transparent with our sin, and empower and accompany one another, we as Church can resist the temptation of hypocrisy and instead embrace the gift of hospitality.
Painting: Supper In the House of Simon, by Italian artist Moretto da Brescia (1150-1554)
Link for today’s Mass readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/101618.cfm