Related to this weekend’s gospel, several commentaries point out that the word “hypocrite” (used 17 times in the gospels) is from the Greek referencing an actor presenting himself to another by playing a role. One of those commentaries goes on to explore the connections between Jesus and a city near Nazareth named Sepphoris…
This opulent Roman enclave was built during his lifetime. This large construction project eventually produced a city and its theatre and may have been the source of work for a young Jesus and his adoptive father Joseph. One can easily imagine Jesus, on a break from construction work, watching actors rehearse on the Sepphoris stage, pretending behind masks to be persons other than themselves. Could this experience have been the genesis of his awareness of the hypocrites, the religious actors on the stage of life, who are blind themselves but still feel they can direct the lives of others? What we do know is that in the earliest centuries of the church the profession of acting (along with being an innkeeper or a prostitute!) was forbidden for Christians. americanbible.org/resources/lectio-divina
Almost thirty years ago, I was a seminarian intern (as Deacon Marty Dober and Fr. Ryan Mann were here) at Holy Rosary Parish in Cleveland. The theme that was selected for Lent that year in the parish was “Take Off Your Mask and Reveal Yourself to God.” Since Mardi Gras includes the wearing of masks and costumes (at least in locations like New Orleans), it provided a kind of segue into the penitential season.
Here is a further reflection from Christian psychologist Dr. Julianna Slattery:
…what if other people could see beyond your physical appearance and look at your insecurities, pride, shame, or malicious thoughts?... Those are the kinds of things our society urges you to cover up. After a while, you create masks to hide your true thoughts and feelings and present an image you hope will prove your worth…Understand that your masks prevent you from experiencing intimacy with God. Rather than trying to impress God, pursue an honest and intimate relationship with Him while relying on His strength. Know that your masks prevent you from pleasing God. Instead of vying for other people’s approval and praise, live to please God alone – no matter what others think of you. Shift your focus from establishing your identity on earth to becoming a disciple of Jesus. (excerpt from an article adapted from Beyond the Masquerade: Unveiling the Authentic You, copyright 2007 by Dr. Julianna Slattery. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill., www.tyndale.com
As we approach the days of Lent, I pray that we will open ourselves—individually and as a community of Faith— to the movement of the Spirit of Christ who will expose the falsehood in our lives and lead us to Truth in its beauty and goodness.