Grace to you!
In Luke 11:37-54, the Blessed Lord Jesus Christ leveled series of charges against the religious leaders of his time. As I read the strong words, I see a running thread about those condemnations. The Lord was condemning their hypocrisy. Hence, in today’s reflection, I will shed light on what I call seven signs of hypocrisy. I will also propose ways to overcome them.
1. External show of piety without commitment to interior transformation. Hypocrites are highly sensitive to what people think of them and do not care so much about the purity of heart and inner renewal. Using Jesus’ description, they clean the outside of the cup or dish, whereas the inside is full of greed and wickedness (see Luke 11:39). Cultivating the virtue of humility and accepting the reality of humanness is a way to overcome this.
2. Legalism. The hypocrite is legalistic in following the law’s rubrics and the religious rites but explains away the demands of true love and justice (see Luke 11:42). Cultivating the virtue of charity, the practice of piety, and growing in generosity to the needy, especially when no one can notice, will help to counter this vice.
3. Crave prominence and fame. Hypocrites seek to be recognized and are hurt if their presumed clout or show of piety is ignored. The false entitlement of a place of honor drives the hypocrite. The answer to this temptation is a conscious effort to serve and to be in the background. Seek ways to help, love, or do something good for someone unnoticed; and not seeking to be served or praised for it.
4. Occasion of sin for others. Because they appear as a safe haven, people easily fall prey to hypocrites. A hypocrite is an intentional occasion of sin for the vulnerable. Overcoming this terrible situation is practicing the virtue of truthfulness and honesty and asking for the grace of contrition.
5. Push laws for them, not for me. For the hypocrite, the law applies to the other person and not to them, except when the law enhances their selfish interests. If the hypocrite is in charge, they further the strictest interpretation of the law for those under them but would limit the application when it comes to them. In the words of Jesus, they burden people with rules and regulations they don’t keep (see Luke 11:45-46). Overcoming this temptation is developing the spirit of empathy, compassion, and mercy. A balanced sense of justice and fairness is crucial too.
6. Hardly praises the good in others. Because hypocrites are too full of themselves, they do not compliment the good in others, especially those whose lifestyle sheds light on their hypocrisy. Ironically, the hypocrite is quick to push for the honor of their victims when they are dead. Overcoming this vice is meekness and openness to the truth. Praise the good in whomever it is found.
7. A wall. The hypocrite’s loud bravado is a caricature of authentic faith. And, because the hypocrite dominates the public view, they are like a wall, preventing the weak from entering into the true path of holiness. Their scandalous example poses a trait to the vulnerable. It would require prayer and sincere repentance to overcome this aspect of hypocrisy.
Lord Jesus, give us the grace not simply to practice external forms of religious obligations, but to be sanctified from within and authentic in our spiritual life. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Week 28: Gal 5:18-25; Lk 11:42-46]