Wednesday, August 25, 2010

being holy and acting as if......

Jesus said,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside,
but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous,
but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. (Mt. 23:27-28)

The Gospel reading for today seems to introduce us into the most unlikely of settings: the theater, particularly, the theater as it was familiar to the Greeks and to the Romans. We knew that when Jesus uttered these reproaches against the Scribes and Pharisees he was referring to their hypocrisy in their dealings with other people within their society, in their perception and practice of the stipulations of the Jewish law, and ultimately, the way they saw themselves before God. They stood as if they were blameless before God and men because of their punctiliousness in following the prescriptions of the Law, and they acted as IF they were blameless. The passage above does not leave us in suspense about what Our Lord would like to say when he compared these men to whitewashed tombs, which give the appearance of respectability and dignity, while actually holding all the filth and decay one would always expect to find within a tomb.
Hypocrisy and hypocrite are words which were first used within the ambit of the stage and the theater. The Greek hypokritos meant nothing more than the actor himself, someone whose work implied that he impersonated someone other than himself, one who concealed his true personality behind another that is not properly his. On hindsight I daresay that showbiz and the theater needs to invest so much on illusion and deceit in order to be good and worthwhile: it's all about acting out. The hypocrite is one who merely acts out something which he is not, in order that others may believe him to be as such that he would like them to believe. It veritably means to live a lie, nothing more. In order to do this, one would have to close himself to the truth about himself. Perhaps, if we were to peek into the heart of our Lord, and knowing his will to save all men, we would understand and see the source of his irritation and anger towards the Pharisees: their closure to the truth makes them impermeable to the saving dew of repentance and of his saving grace. In deciding to live out a lie, they have blinded themselves to the truth about themselves and to the Truth which God had sent to save them, the Truth who is God himself.

On the other hand there is another term from the theater which elucidates the exact opposite of the attitude of the Pharisees. The ancients used to employ masks in their theatrical productions in order to depict the personages to whom they were giving life to. Usually they may be made of wax. Taking off the masks would reveal the true identity of the actor, and thus end the illusion which until then he had been doing. Sincerity comes from this milieu. Sine Cera means to be without masks of wax with which to deceive. To be sincere is to be at the opposite end of being hypocritical. Only in this attitude and sincerity could one take stock of what he needs to change, something which would inevitably lead one to ask the help of God's grace. It is one condition needed for an authentic conversion, and for the conversion to be authentic.

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