Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“You wear a mask for so long, you forget who you were beneath it.”

“Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending - performing. You get to love your pretense. It's true, we're locked in an image, an act - and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you're trying to steal their most precious possession.” - Jim Morrison (American singer, poet, & songwriter)

Gospel Text: (MT 23:23-26)
Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”

Many homes have a junk drawer or catch-all closet that the owners don’t really want other people to know about. When company approaches, stray papers and miscellaneous objects with no clear category are deposited into these hiding places. When these things are out of sight, the house at least appears orderly, and guests get a good impression. Unfortunately, just out of view is evidence of a persistent and perhaps growing clutter.

This kind of superficial remedy can give us an image of what our spiritual life can be like. It can be tempting to clean the outside of the cup while not tending to the inside (Matthew 23:25-26). At a restaurant we may be careful to say grace before eating but think nothing of snapping at a waiter who seems less than perfectly polite. We may try hard not to miss Mass, but just before the service, we cut someone off trying to get a parking space.

Why don’t our outward observances more closely match what’s inside us? Oftentimes, it’s because we find it easier to manage our appearance than to deal with our flaws. We want to hide them away and occupy ourselves with what we can control. It’s as if we were a parent whose teenager is always fighting, and all we do is keep reminding him to comb his hair! But like a wise parent, Jesus insists that we come to him and tell him what the real problem is. He is anxious to listen to us and to offer us his healing remedy.

This is exactly what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is for! It should be anything but a cosmetic approach. It’s meant to set us free from the inside out. As we examine our consciences through the light of the Holy Spirit, we can get to the root of the shortcomings that dog us. Whatever we’re dealing with, if we acknowledge it, confess it, and seek God’s grace to part with it, he will forgive us and restore us to his presence. We never have to live chained to our sins. Today is the “acceptable time” when you can receive his love and mercy (2 Corinthians 6:2)!

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