Sunday, 30 October 2011
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Shaftesbury
on Mt 23:1-12
One of the cattiest insults that can be hurled at us is the accusation that we, that you or that I, are "two-faced". That what I say to one person is not the same as what I say to someone else. That I pretend to some people to be one thing, and I pretend to other people to be something else. And, of course, one way of being two-faced is being a hypocrite -not living out the beliefs that I pretend to. Hypocrisy is something that the Lord condemned very frequently, as we just heard an example.
The opposite of being two-faced is being one-faced. Having one face, my real face. And this one face being the same face that I show to everyone. It is the same face because it is the face that reveals the same real me.
To achieve that, my life needs to be a consistent unity. I must be the same person in everything that I do. I can't pretend to be one kind of person when I'm doing one thing, or with one group of people, and really be something else.
Which means that I must strive to possess the virtue of integrity.
To consider for a moment what that would look like in practice:
Although I must be the same person in everything that I do, this doesn’t mean that I cannot do different things. I can be the same consistent person and still act differently in different situations. In a hospital I must be able to rejoice with the mother of a new baby, and still be able, the next minute, to be sad with someone who has just lost a loved relative, and, yet I must also be the same person who enjoys a drink in the pub.
I can do different thing in different places, as the need calls for. But I am still called to be the same person in all the different things that I do.
I am called to be a WHOLE person.
The alternative is to have a split personality, one face on Sunday, another face the rest of the week. To be a person that is made up of several conflicting parts that only just about hang together. And in as much as that it true of us it produces internal conflict. Conflict arising from the different needs of the different personalities within me. It produces stress. Stress that arises from our insincerity, our lack of integrity.
So, being insincere is bad for us.
Conversely, by seeking sincerity, I am not only obeying our Lord's command to practice what I preach, I am also acting for my own good.
When I am consistently the same person, rather than several different people inside me, then I will be naturally rewarded with peace of soul. The kind of internal peace that was enjoyed by Jesus Christ, and by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Peace that results from the absence of sin. Peace that results from the absence of hypocrisy, from not being two-faced.
This internal peace is a gift that we can only receive from Jesus Christ. As He said to His disciples, "Peace I leave you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give"(Jn 14:27). The peace of Jesus comes with the gift of His grace. Grace which makes us a whole united person. Which binds together the conflicting parts within us. Making us one person, with one face.
So, in as much as we feel that conflict within us, feel that being a different person with different people, let us bring our dividedness to the Lord, let us ask for His grace to help us practice what we preach, to be people of integrity, people with one face, not two.