"The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example." -Mt 23: 2-3
The second reading today, Matthew 23: 1-12, paints a picture of Jesus speaking to his disciples about the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Upon reading this, it makes perfect sense. It doesn’t seem to be a difficult message, and it’s not particularly carved with parables and deep-seeded symbols. For some reason, however, I struggle with articulating this message countering hypocrisy. For me, it’s usually a characteristic I place on people who have authority: politicians, professors, coaches, etc. and I think we can all agree it can be seen! But I’m sure we can all relate to this ourselves as well, and I think at some point we’ve all said something that we have not fulfilled.
While the term hypocrisy usually means a more conscious and active “not practicing what you preach,” I seem to always falter trying to practice what I preach. In that way, I think there’s a huge difference: hypocrisy vs. growth in faith. While the Pharisees and scribes preach the law, they actively don’t obey it themselves because they have already decided that they get pleasure out of living in a different way. For most people, I don’t think this is the case. Countless times, I’ve found myself thinking, “I claim to be a Christian, but what I just did was not very Christian.” While it is easy to be hard on myself for this and label this hypocrisy, I think that it’s important to keep in mind that through God, through my faith, I have a standard to live up to. That standard represents the truth. As Christians, we are always working towards the truth. We are going to fail at times, but it’s through trying that we feel the powerful grace to carry on.
A wonderful quote by John Mallon, writer for Inside the Vatican magazine:
“The older I get the more convinced I am that Christianity is not so much about being “good” as it is being true—with the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Truth. It is Jesus who makes us good, not our ‘goodness’ that makes us Christians.”