Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(II Corinthians 9:6-11; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)
We know that the fairly common English word hypocrite means pretender. A hypocrite is not who he or she seems to be. The word is actually Greek for actor. This is reasonable since actors are the ultimate pretenders in that they receive rewards from others for portraying someone who they are not. Hypocrisy runs directly against the morality preached by Jesus, especially in this Gospel according to Matthew which emphasizes a radically changed heart. Jesus’ disciples are to love sincerely, that is without pretence.
In today’s passage, which we always read on Ash Wednesday, Jesus warns us three times about being hypocrites. He tells us that we are not to be like actors playing for the approval of others when we give alms, when we pray, and when we fast. Rather we should consider God as our audience who, of course, readily scrutinizes the sincerity of our hearts.