Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Galatians 2: 1-2.12-17; Luke 11:1-4)
The word hypocrisy comes from a Greek word meaning to play a part or to pretend. Hypocrites evidently were originally actors. In modern parlance hypocrites pretend to be virtuous when they actually are not. They attempt to deceive. So when Paul accuses Peter of hypocrisy in today’s reading from Galatians, he is leveling a serious charge.
Poor Peter is caught in the bind between following custom and living faith in Christ. Being a Jew, Peter grew up eating kosher. But faith in Jesus means that following his ways of self-sacrificial love – not a particular diet or other formal acts -- brings one salvation. First, Peter showed reliance on Christ by taking food freely with non-Jews. Then in the presence of Jewish Christians he pretends that he would never do such a thing. This behavior sends a mixed message which, Paul knows, will confuse non-Jews. In Paul’s purview a similar mixed message has allowed some Galatian men to want circumcision rather than consecrate on following Jesus.
Different from Peter, we likely show hypocrisy by covering up our religiosity. For example, Catholics who eat meat on Fridays in Lent when out with friends betray their commitment to the Church. We want to be known as both lovers of God and of the world. There is some overlap, but we cannot square a circle. We must not conform to the world but encourage the world to convert to God.