There was once a politician who went to a nursing home seeking for votes from senior citizens. Thinking that he was popular and since he was so full of himself, he said to an old man, "Do you know me?" The fellow said, "No, but if you ask the nurse, she'll tell you."
Who are we? Halloween brings out the different masks we wear. Some are masks we like to be. Others are masks we fear to be. Some are gory. Others are silly. Some can be found in children’s books. Others were chosen just for their looks.
But one thing is certain with the mask we wear. It is not us. It is not the person who is wearing it. It is worn just for Halloween.
This explains the disappointment of Jesus in addressing his disciples. He talked about the scribes and the Pharisees who wore their masks of hypocrisy all the time. They liked to be adored, acknowledged and recognized. They loved places of honor and titles of distinction. But they do not practice what they pray for, what they preach about, who they believe.
Hypocrisy is a disgrace we all have to face. If we cannot be true to who we are, then how can we be true to who we can become? Jesus is reminding us to be true to our faith and our belief. If we cannot remain loyal to what we believe, then how can we express our belief outside of our faith? Jesus wants us be glued to the work of his creation because there is always an element of sin in any hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is a daughter of pride. Pride brought Lucifer and his minions to their own misery. Pride disturbed the beauty of paradise in the Garden of Eden. Pride brought Judas to betrayal and hopelessness.
Proud people are insecure people. They do not have a healthy appreciation of themselves. They need to be affirmed all the time. Benjamin Franklin wrote that a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.
Humility, on the other hand, is a gift of grace. It is knowing our own worth and value. It is appreciating who we are in a world that does not revolve around us. It is believing in one God who created us with no distinction. It is living for a God who is the Father of us all.
Thus, if we want to be great in the kingdom of God, we have to be a servant. Just be humble. No one has ever choked to death from swallowing his own pride. Jesus said it again, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Or as somebody would say, God pickles the proud and preserves the foolish.
There was a story of Alex Haley, author of Roots, who had a picture in his office of a turtle sitting atop a fence post with its legs dangling far to the sides. When asked why he loved that picture, Alex Haley said that it was a reminder for him of a basic important thing: The turtle did not get on top of the fence post without some help. Haley said that every time he starts thinking about what he accomplished in life, the picture reminded him that he did not get where he was without help from people. It was his way of keeping himself humble.
One way of dying to self is to put the gifts that God has given us into a proper perspective. That is essentially why we are created according to our Catechism: to know him, to love him, to serve him in this world and in the next.
All our titles, all our possessions, all our wealth, all our gifts therefore are meant for service to God and to our fellow human being. And need we say, to that perspective alone we commit all the hypocrisy we have, and all the masks we wear.
30 October 2011