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Lord, I Am a Hypocrite

First Reading: 2 Kings 2:1, 6-14

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind,
he and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here;Protégé
the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.”
“As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live,
I will not leave you,” Elisha replied.
And so the two went on together.
Fifty of the guild prophets followed and
when the two stopped at the Jordan,
they stood facing them at a distance.
Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up
and struck the water, which divided,
and both crossed over on dry ground.

When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha,
“Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.”
Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.”
“You have asked something that is not easy,” Elijah replied.
“Still, if you see me taken up from you,
your wish will be granted; otherwise not.”
As they walked on conversing,
a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them,
and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.
When Elisha saw it happen he cried out,
“My father! my father! Israel’s chariots and drivers!”
But when he could no longer see him,
Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two.

Then he picked up Elijah’s mantle that had fallen from him,
and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan.
Wielding the mantle that had fallen from Elijah,
Elisha struck the water in his turn and said,
“Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?”
When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 31:20, 21, 24

R. (25) Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
How great is the goodness, O LORD,
which you have in store for those who fear you,
And which, toward those who take refuge in you,
you show in the sight of the children of men.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men;
You screen them within your abode
from the strife of tongues.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.
Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
The LORD keeps those who are constant,
but more than requites those who act proudly.
R. Let your hearts take comfort, all who hope in the Lord.

Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door,
and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to others to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

NAB

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“Take care not to perform righteous deeds that others may see them.”

I’m a better mom in public places. Partly out of deference to accepted social norms, and yes, partly out of pride. I perform better for a crowd, sad as it is to admit, than in the secret rooms of our own four walls. So a naughty toddler gets a firm, loving reprisal rather than a nuclear time-out. An act of preschool defiance earns a gentle correction while crouching at eye level in Costco, while the same offense might merit a much higher decibel at home.

Which begs the question, for whom am I parenting?

And more broadly, regardless of current vocational state in life, Whom am I living for?

If we are truly seeking to conform lives to Christ, to submit the dark and unsavory parts of our hearts and minds to the searing grace of His goodness, why is it so tempting to “perform” Christianity for a crowd?

“[Y]our Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

When I stop myself from a blind act of road rage and say a quick, secret prayer of forgiveness and even thanksgiving for the opportunity to suffer. When I lovingly correct a child in my own living room, substituting an embrace, however undesired, for a harsh word. When I accept a cruel comment or careless remark on social media without launching a blistering counterattack, giving thanks for a tiny sliver of suffering in my privileged, almost entirely selfish life.

He sees that.

He sees the shortcomings, too. And while it feels so right to bask in the approval of friends and strangers in a moment of public decency, I want to give Him the little, hidden moments that cost much more. Because I will not become holy in the public square. And it is my practices and my disposition of heart in private, in my inner room, that will bear fruit into eternity.

Lord, I am a hypocrite. In my gloom and in my self-seeking desire for approval. Give me Your humility, that I may become less a Pharisee, in spite of myself.

If someone wrongs you today, or if you have the opportunity to make a quiet act of charity or reparation, bear it silently, or carry it out without fanfare. Let your reward come from the Father, who sees everything in secret.

photo credit

Jenny Uebbing is a freelance editor and writer for Catholic News Agency. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband Dave and their growing army of toddlers. She writes about marriage, life issues, politics, sociological trends and traveling with kids here

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