Hypocrisy to Mercy
In today’s gospel (29 August), there are some powerful lines.
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”He (Jesus) responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” (Mark 7, 5–8)
It is very comforting to think that Jesus was critical of the hypocrisy of some of the Jewish authorities of his time. But, for a Christian, it won’t be too comforting to think that, Jesus would be more critical of the hypocrisy of Christians (including me).
So the question is, what is this divine commandment? What is the human tradition? Jesus gave one commandment (or two in one)…. loving God in and through loving your neighbour. If any one of our traditions (however sacred, precious, ancient etc it is) is taking a preference over that divine commandment, we should just remember the parable of good samaritain, or the story of the rich man and Lazarus. If we want to be authentic Christians, those traditions (however precious they are) have to stay behind (or under) the divine commandment.
One of the greatest evils Jesus hates and one of the evils many so-called haters of Christianity (or even enemies) accuse Christianity is the hypocrisy. My point is not to do deny the good (in many forms) done by individual Christians and the institutional Church. But we can’t (and we shouldn’t) hide the hypocrisy present within our personal life and our institutional structures in the name of charity done by us.
What is the opposite of hypocrisy? I googled and first two options were honesty or sincerity. I think mercy (compassion) may be more apt as a biblical opposite for hypocrisy. When hypocrisy is one of the characteristics of devil, compassion is the nature of God (Be compassionate as your heavenly father is). May be one of the invitations of today’s gospel is to shun hyprocrisy….. which in a Christian way is to be translated as to become people of mercy and compassion.