Wednesday in the Twenty-First Week of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey

HypocrisyA niece of mine, when she was a teenager, fell away from the practice of her parent’s faith, excusing herself because she said, “The Church is full of hypocrites.”  As one renowned person writes, “Today a foul corruption permeates the whole body of the Church, all the more incurable the more widespread it becomes, all the more dangerous the more it penetrates inwardly.”  Who said that?  Our own St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Sermon 33 on the Song of Songs!

Jesus speaks of hypocrisy or hypocrites fifteen times in the Gospel of Matthew.  Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis writes that it originally meant a reply or answer to a question.  Then it became more restricted to the activity of actors replying to one another on stage, playing their parts. Finally, in popular usage it came to mean a pretender. Jesus gives it a religious significance, a person who justifies self before God and others simply on the basis of an external observance of religious precepts.  Yes, there are many hypocrites in the Church and in politics. 

How can you tell when a politician is lying?  When his lips are moving!  So, how can we avoid hypocrisy? By silence!  Silence when I want to be critical, silence when I want to lie, silence when I want to excuse myself, silence when I’m envious, and silence when I want to get my own way.  As the desert father, St. Arsanious, once said, “Many times I spoke and regretted what I said, but about silence I never have any regret”.