SUNDAY HOMILY: 31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
THEME: AVOID HYPOCRISY AND PRIDE.
By: Fr. Karabari Paul
‘ They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.’
The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites, which means stage actor. An actor is pretending to be someone they are not, and that is exactly what a hypocrite does. A hypocrite may act as if they believe something, when actually they don’t. Or they may point out all the mistakes others are making, when secretly they are doing the exact same things. We might be shocked to think of ourselves as hypocrites, but the reality is that we have all probably done something like that. We have acted one way in public and another in private. When Jesus spoke about the Scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel of today (Matthew 23:1-12), He says, ‘Everything they do is done for people to see.’
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Perhaps the person we are at church is not always the person we are at home. We can end up putting on an act. Maybe our relationship with God has got a bit off track, maybe we have found ourselves trapped by temptation, yet at church we sing, pray and act like nothing is wrong. Jesus also said that ‘they do not practise what they preach’ (Matthew 23:3). We need to make sure that our lifestyle matches what we believe. We need to have integrity. And if we are pointing out someone else’s faults, we should also be considering our own faults too. The Bible says: ‘How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye’ (Matthew 7:4-5). Let us live as Jesus calls us to. Jesus had a no-tolerance policy when it came to hypocrisy. Let us not fake our spirituality. When you go to church, don’t select a seat just to be seen, or sing just to be heard. If you raise your hands in worship, raise holy ones, Let us avoid fake ‘Praise the Lord’, or a shallow ‘Hallelujah’, or an insincere ‘Glory be to God’,. Silence the trumpets. Cancel the parade. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them. Slay the desire to be noticed. Stir the desire to serve God. In other words, don’t be a hypocrite!
Holiness should always be ‘unto the Lord’. Any time we make it ‘unto men’, it’s wrong and misguided because it’s just pride and pretence. Jesus condemned the Pharisees not for their acts of piety, but because they performed them to impress others. Not only did they live by a long list of religious ‘do’s and don’ts,’ they also kept a scorecard on others who didn’t live up to their list and denounced them for it. Jesus says they ‘like to go about in the long robes, and to have salutations in the market places and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at feasts…’ The picture here is that of pride. In Jesus’ day, some rabbis had the idea that true spirituality required you to distance yourself from people and raise you above others. Ironically, the only Rabbi the outcasts could touch turned out to be God Himself. Jesus was the most approachable person they had ever met.
The spirituality of the Scribes carries false humility. Paul writes, ‘Do not let anyone who delights in false humility…disqualify you’ (Colossians 2:18). Whether it is in your manner of dress, your speech, or your behaviour, anything that draws attention to you and away from Christ is displeasing to God.
Peter addresses the subject in these words: ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honour’ (1 Peter 5:5-6). Seriously, pride disqualifies you from enjoying the favour of God. That is why you need to remind yourself regularly: ‘Everything I am, I owe to God; everything I have came from God .
Think about some of the things we can become proud over. Things like our academic achievements, the things we own, and the job we have managed to get. When we have worked hard to get to where we are, we need to be on the lookout for pride. Paul asks, ‘Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now, if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?’ (1 Corinthians 4:7). So what should we do? 1) Take a look at our beliefs about who we are, what we have, and what we can do. Jesus said, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). When we remember that we need God, we keep the right perspective. 2) Focus more on others than on ourselves. ‘Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others’ (Philippians 2:4). 3) Respect and value everyone we meet regardless of their social status, race, gender, or other factors. When we are humble, people are more likely to respect us rather than think that we have got selfish motives. Pride is something that the Bible warns against, so it’s something we need to remove from our lives as soon as we spot
The world tells us that in order to be accepted and successful, we need to achieve and then be recognised for those achievements. It is pretty hard not to be sucked into this kind of living. Society tells us that we need to ‘rise to the top,’ so that is what we try to do. But it’s also pretty hard not to become prideful. The devil wants us to focus on promoting ourselves rather than glorifying God. The devil himself is full of pride. His aspirations led him to fall from heaven. He claimed: ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphonte sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14:13-14). Satan wants to take God’s place, but God isn’t moving. Satan wants to win you to his side, but God will never let you go. GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE. May God have mercy on us, heal our world, bless and protect us all through Christ, our Lord Amen. Please, stay safe. Good morning.
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