10th Sun [A] 2005

Fr. Charles Irvin

Hosea 6:3-6; Romans 4:18-25; Matthew 9:9-13

Of all of the types of people who are most disliked, hypocrites are at the top of the list. Even terrible sinners despise them. Perhaps sinners dislike them the most. Even Jesus had some nasty things to say about them, calling them snakes and whitewashed sepulchers. His anger blazed out at them.

The readings in today’s Mass deal with the topic of hypocrites, those people who are outwardly religious but who inwardly have hearts and thoughts that are the opposite of God’s.

In the first reading we find God saying, “What can I do with you Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? You are like the morning fog.” In other words, as soon as the sun comes out you disappear. “For this reason,” God says through His prophet Hosea, “I slew them by the words of my mouth; for it is love I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts.”

Outward displays of religious practices, to be genuine and real, must be an expression of an inner spirit that conforms to God heart. In the psalm you just heard we hear God telling us: “Offer to God praise as your sacrifice and fulfill your vows to the Most High; then call upon me in time of distress…” Other psalms use stronger language, language that should make us listen up and take notice.

Now the perfect sacrifice was Christ’s, the one He offered dying on His cross. True love is revealed in a person when life throws its worst at us. Can you and I love even in the face of rejection? Can you and I love even when those we love don’t really care? Can you and I still have good will toward people even when they are hateful toward us? Jesus did, and He bids us do the same.

Think of the moms and dads that continue to love their children even when their children say and do nasty things to them, even when their children look down on them with contempt and speak to them (and of them) in contemptuous words.

True love, love that is Godly and reveals the love of Jesus, never tries to overcome evil with more evil but rather tries to overcome evil with good. Trying to overcome evil with evil only doubles the amount of evil — it never cancels evil out. The only weapon to use against evil is good. The only way to overcome hatred is with love. The only way to overcome indifference is to hang in there with unbroken commitment. No one ever wins by quitting.

To be honest with you, there are times when I have felt I was a hypocrite. If we’re all honest with ourselves, each one of us here remembers times when we have felt a bit hypocritical, times when we’ve been here in church knowing full well we haven’t been very Christian or very Catholic.

What can we do about it?

I once heard Jesus described as “the man who was for others.” His whole life was for others. His love for His Father and His obedience to His Father’s will was always and everywhere expressed in His giving of Himself for others. Read His famous teaching on the Mount of Beatitudes. Each one of the Beatitudes calls us to be for others.

If God is anything, He is merciful. Are we merciful? How readily do we forgive others? Do be put conditions on our forgiveness of others? Do they have to do things first before we will forgive them? God doesn’t, why should we?

The Jewish Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) are filled with reports of what God was telling us through His prophets. Time and again God called His Old Testament people to care for aliens, strangers, and the poor. One cannot at the same time be a hypocrite while caring for others. One cannot be a hypocrite and be praying for others. One cannot be a hypocrite while loving others, or while being a peacemaker, or while standing with the poor and oppressed, or while defending others whom people scorn and disdain, or while honoring father and mother.

We are here in church in order to leave it, in order to leave it not empty-handed but with hearts and souls filled with the Presence of Jesus in order to share Him with those around us.

Who did Jesus eat with? Sinners. Who did Jesus care for? Sinners. With whom was Jesus associated? Sinners. Our churches were not built only for the convenience of saints. Our churches, like hospitals, were built to house and care for the physically sick and infirm. Churches are like hospitals – we enter them in order to find spiritual healing and wholeness.

We are here today because we need healing and wholeness. We are here today because we are sinners who need God’s help in Christ’s tender, loving mercies. We are here today not because we are hypocrites but because we are being honest with our selves and honest to God. You cannot be a hypocrite and at the same time face the truth about yourself.

If anyone says that you’re a hypocrite because you go to Mass then ask him or her to join you. They probably need to be here more than you do.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”