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Sunday, April 26, 2015

What is a Hypocrite?

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a hypocrite is described thus:

a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs

The Modern Catholic Dictionary, put together by Servant of God Father John Harden, offers this as a definition:

HYPOCRISY. A form of lying in which a person pretends to have virtues or moral qualities that are not possessed. Its motive is pride and its malice depends on the gravity of the pride and on the evil consequences that follow when people take one to be morally good and, perhaps, entrust one with confidences or responsibilities that are not deserved. It is not hypocrisy, however, to be on one's best behavior with those whom one justly wishes to impress favorably. Nor is it hypocrisy when a person, because of human weakness, fails to live up to his or her own principles or profession of faith. (Etym. Latin hypocrita, hypocrite; from Greek hypokrit─ôs, actor, hypocrite.)

As usual, Catholicism takes into consideration the entire person - a holistic approach, so to speak - allowing for problems, mistakes and sins that everyone of us are subject to every day of our lives.  Rather than simply dismissing someone who has fallen, The Church reminds us that we all fall short of the goal at every day.  We may do really well for awhile.  We may resolve, when we fall, to never EVER do whatever it was we did again.  However, unless one is determined to never interact with another human being or animal, the chances that we will fall flat on our faces again are pretty high.

Because of this, I hesitate to call people who go to Church every Sunday but who fail to be perfect Monday through Friday hypocrites.  I certainly reject that label for myself and anyone I love.  I know how many of us face every day determined to do better than we did yesterday.  I know how many of us make the same mistakes over and over again - myself included - and when I apologize one more time it is not because I am a hypocrite; rather, it is because I am a human being.

Of course this does not excuse any bad behavior.  When I am wrong, I am wrong.  I accept that, accept the responsibility and make my apology with sincerity.  I accept whatever punishment God or the law of the land prescribes and I try not to whine about it.  After all, I brought it on myself.  If I have a penance to endure, I must endure it. 

More importantly, however, is this: I must be willing to try and live up to what Jesus taught us.  How often must I forgive?  Seven times seventy, and that does not mean I whip out a calculator and start keeping score.  It means I must continue to forgive as often as my Father in Heaven forgives me, and last I looked He does not keep score.

Damn hard, too.  I am a score keeper by nature.  Being Italian and Irish, I am genetically predisposed to keep score of all the hurts and bruises and scrapes and twists and turns caused to poor little me over the years.  Shoot, when you come from people who a) have a saying of 'Vengence is a dish best eaten cold and b) are still mad about a battle that they lost 800 years ago trust me you would keep score too.

That being said, I made a decision over 20 years ago to try and be a better Leslie one day at a time. No matter how many times I fall down, no matter how many times I am hurt and no matter how many times I cause hurt, I am determined to make it to Heaven some day.  I am not going to give up.

Today, because it is Good Shepherd Sunday, I keep thinking about what St Thomas Aquinas taught about Jesus' saying, "I know my sheep and my sheep know me".  He wrote (and I am paraphrasing) that the word 'know' implies not just a surface knowledge of our existence; rather, it means that He really knows me.  He knows how I think, how if feel, my defects and my strengths.  He knows me, and he LOVES me, He accepts me for who I am while still expecting me to do the best I can to fight my own fallen nature.

Jesus loves me for the willingness to fight myself....and He forgives me, seven times seventy.....which is what I need to do in order to NOT be a hypocrite.

SO....if you are afraid that falling down again and again but still wanting to be a member of His Church means you are less than perfect, don't worry.

You are less than perfect.

Sit next to me.

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