Wednesday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
(Romans 2:1-11; Luke 11:42-46)
The English word hypocrite is derived from a Greek word of similar pronunciation. The ancient form designated people who interpreted their situations to determine how they were going to act. Thus hypocrites were those who changed their attitudes and actions according to their own interests. Hypocrisy, the state of the hypocrite, thus befits an actor but not everyday people. Both St. Paul and Jesus in today’s readings take aim at hypocrites.
Paul has Jews in mind when he writes, “You, o man, are without excuse.” He has finished his critique of pagan morality and now turns his eye to Jewish behavior. He finds his own nation pretending to live righteous lives when they act similarly to pagans. Jesus sees the Pharisees as equally pretentious. They feign holiness with concern over the fine points of religious observance. They miss the purpose of religion which is to give God glory by imitating His goodness.
Followers of Christ avoid hypocrisy. Paul tells us later in the letter to the Romans that we need the grace of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this aim. Luke shows us in his two volume masterpiece of Luke-Acts that the grace comes through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Still we have to want it, pray for it, and to work with it when it duly arrives.