|Memorial of St. Monica
First Thessalonians 1:2-5, 8-10
Psalms 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 9
Recently I traveled in Central America where I encountered a remarkable man. Having ministered with and to the poor and oppressed for over 40 years--literally risking his life from death squads who considered his accompaniment of the poor to be "subversive"--one would think he was well-deserving of a short break. When presented with the opportunity for a three month sabbatical, however, this man of simplicity, justice, faith and commitment, did not jump at the chance. Why not? After all, those of us who work hard here in the U.S. take vacations, and professors, priests, and ministers take sabbaticals after long periods of difficult labor. Exactly. His reason for not jumping at the chance to take his "well-deserved sabbatical" is that people of wealth, power, and resources take significant breaks. But the economically poor people, with whom he lives and works, do not. They cannot leave their fields or their families will starve. They do not have the luxury of choosing to take a break. If this remarkable man wants to be in solidarity with the people with whom and to whom he ministers, he needs to consider their circumstances and lack of power to choose. He does not want to be a hypocrite. He does not want to be a fraud.
Jesus said, "Woe to you . . . frauds!"
The enemy in this passage from Matthew's Gospel is not the much maligned Pharisees but hypocrisy itself, especially hypocrisy in the church. We are all called to live out our faith as consistently as we can with Jesus' good news of love, forgiveness, peace and justice.
Not a day goes by that I do not wrestle with my own tendency toward hypocrisy. I contemplate the gaps between my beliefs and my actions. Do I love enough, especially the strangers and the marginalized I meet? Do I give enough of my time, money, and resources to those who need them more? Do I resist our cultural temptations toward individualism and consumerism? Do I educate myself enough about issues of peace and justice in our world, and act to change what I can to help bring about God's Kingdom?
The answer to all these questions for me is inevitably "no, never
enough." But rather than be too hard on myself for my own hypocrisy,
it gives me comfort to know that even someone as inspiring as the man I
met in Central America continues to struggle with similar issues of faith,
solidarity, and authenticity. This realization does not excuse me,
but it does help me to realize we are all in this life-long struggle together
to build God's Reign and live out our faith with humility, authenticity
and justice. His struggle inspires me to deeper engagement.
The Spirit of Jesus is with us in the struggle, prompting us to pose challenging
questions and helping us to discover authentic answers.
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