Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time-C

Adam and Eve driven out of the Garden of Eden. Line engraving, 19th century.

“Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye, ‘when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite…”

 Why is it, that it is so much easier to point out the sins of others and not be conscious or honest about our own?  Perhaps, there are a multitude of reasons, but one thing is for certain– it is much more satisfying to look at the faults of others than it is to come to grips with our own inadequacies.

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” 

When Jesus uses the word ‘hypocrite’ maybe he is trying to teach his disciples a lesson a bit different from the common use of the word. The modern definition of hypocrite is “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.”

The word Jesus uses is one with a more ancient definition. The origin of the word, ‘hypocrite’ comes from the Greek word ‘hypokrites’ which means an actor or actors who wore masks to hide their true faces as can be seen now in opera or theater. Using the original meaning of hypocrite throws a different light on Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus teaches when we act in condemning others before ourselves, we are afraid to expose our true selves to others, which of course, is our own sinful tendencies. If we are a hypocrite, then we are hiding our own sin, and most importantly, denying our identity as a Christian.  Let’s not forget, in the waters of baptism, we are plunged into the dying and rising mystery of Christ.  Because of the paschal mystery, we have an identity, an identity that is tied up intimately in Christ, so much so we are called daughters and sons of God the Father.

To pretend it isn’t true is tantamount to hiding in shame, just as Adam and Eve did in the garden after they sinned.  (As a side note, Original Sin does have lasting effects on all humanity).

Christianity and the sacramental system of the Church helps people live in the truth, giving them the courage to show one another exactly who they are and what they stand for, which is the knowledge of God’s mercy and forgiveness. The paschal mystery, the suffering death and resurrection of Jesus, forever obliterated the need for us to cower.   By the grace of God, no longer do we have to live in the shadows by covering our faces with masks of shame as did our first parents when they became aware they were naked.

Christians have also been instilled with the knowledge that we have not yet been perfected, but as our journey continues, our objective is clear:  By God’s grace we can show the world our vulnerabilities, our insecurities, the good and the bad, and most importantly, we are God’s lovable creation worthy of forgiveness.  Hopefully, we believe that we are set free in Christ, and every day we are called to move beyond our own limitations to lift others out of what binds them to live in their own anonymity. 

In the few days before Lent starts, a season of repentance and sacrifice, it is probably a good idea for us to spend these forty days in honest evaluation of who we are, and not who we pretend to be.

Of course, it is difficult to honestly look at ourselves without rationalizing, and see the man, woman or child I have become.  But once we have, and reconcile with God and one another through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will indeed be free of the masks we have previously hidden behind.  And unlike our first parents in the garden, we will not be afraid to show our real faces, and what beautiful faces they can be. 

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