The tertians are both part of the community at Canisius but also a bit apart from it. Most days we join the community for daily Mass. However, on Tuesdays and Thursdays we have Mass as a group without the rest of the community of externs, people from outside the community who come here for Mass. I preached today. The homily is below.
5th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
8 February 2011
In the first reading we heard: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.’
The psalm proclaimed: “You have made him little less than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under his feet”
Alas, today’s Gospel—and most of the rest of scripture—details the mess man has made of God’s gifts and creation.
The scene in today’s Gospel is contentious. One does not come away from it feeling consoled so much as uncomfortable. There are no warm and fuzzy images here. But, there is an astute description of human behavior.
The complaint that the disciples didn’t wash their hands before meals had nothing to do with matters of hygiene. The complaint was against failure to observe the ritual hand washing meant to purify after contact with unclean objects as determined by the Law. Jesus responded to the complaint by pointing out to his critics the hypocrisy of their actions; hypocrisy that preferred superficial action over true conversion of heart. This theme recurs throughout the Gospels.
As is always true of Jesus’ responses to controversial and contentious situations. He did not mince his words. He was not proleptically apologetic “I’m sorry, but in MY opinion.” Nor did he give those with him an out by saying, “Well, I feel that . . . “ allowing for disagreement.
Jesus cited Isaiah’s criticism of empty rituals saying: “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” That is the definition of hypocrisy; a word derived from Greek that means: play acting, acting out, coward or dissembling.
Hypocrisy is tempting to all of us. Hypocrisy is part of the sinful human condition. It is much too easy. But it takes a toll on the hypocrite who, if he has even a hint of insight, lives in constant fear of being found out.
Consider the medical resident who had just finished laying down the law to a smoker the morning after she was admitted to coronary care with a heart attack. The young doc was eloquent. He insisted—correctly—that smoking was the cause of the problem. It was time to quit. Period. No wiggle room. No rationalizations. Smoking: bad. Smoker: badder.
And then young Dr. Kildare leaned over to listen to the patient’s damaged heart. And a pack of cigarettes fell out of his white coat on to the sheet.
In the red box.
They looked like neon on the pristine white bed sheet.
The patient began with hypocrite, liar and fundamentally dishonest. That was all in the first sentence of her diatribe. I quit smoking that day in 1977.