From the Pastor – September 2, 2018

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.  Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” (Mk 7:15)

If there’s one thing in the world we don’t like, it’s hypocrisy. I remember sitting next to a man on an airplane one time.  When he saw that I was a priest in clerics, he was initially very courteous. He said he was Catholic and spoke about being involved in the Church when he was younger. As our conversation continued, he began to spend a lot of time criticizing the Catholic Church, particularly it’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, a male priesthood, and the “hierarchy.”  After listening for a while, I asked him where he went to church at the moment. He responded: “Oh, I don’t go to a Catholic church anymore; there are too many hypocrites there.” Nodding at his response, I turned to him and smiled: “Don’t worry, there’s always room for one more!”

The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek word “hypokrisis” which means “play-acting” or “taking on a role.”  In the Bible, the word applies to people who pretend to be what they are not, especially those who pretend to be pious or virtuous without really being so. It seems that Jesus reserves most of His harshest words for hypocrites, as in this week’s Gospel: “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”

Since Jesus was harsh on the hypocrites, we are usually pretty quick to pile on scorn when people live hypocritically – when what they “preach” differs from what they “practice.” Such is the scorn that has been heaped upon former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors and engaging in other homosexual activity, while representing himself as a “Prince of the Church.”

But we have to remember that Jesus could look into the hearts and minds of those who were “pretending” to be holy and pious, and we can’t.  And we also have to remember that each of us falls into hypocrisy. We call ourselves Catholics, and we want to imitate Christ, but we often fall short by sinning.

And thankfully, there is a remedy for hypocrisy. And the remedy is humility. It’s a recognition that our road to holiness is one upon which we’re led by the Holy Spirit. We can only do so much; we need God’s grace. The surest way to receive God’s grace is through the two Sacraments by which we are constantly renewed:  the Eucharist & Confession.  In the Eucharist we humbly receive Christ, and in Confession we humbly beg forgiveness. I’m glad the Church is open to hypocrites. Otherwise, I might be out in the cold!

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty