Thursday, October 15, 2015

Exterior: A Reflection of the Interior

By Colleen O’Sullivan

Brothers and sisters:  What can we say that Abraham found, our ancestor according to the flesh?  Indeed, if Abraham was justified on the basis of his works, he has reason to boast; but this was not so in the sight of God.  For what does the Scripture say?  “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”   (Romans 4:1-3)

At that time:  So many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot.  Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples, “Beware of the leaven – that is, the hypocrisy – of the Pharisees.  There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known  Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops.”   (Luke 12:1-3)

May the face I show to the world be a true reflection of my inner self.  May my love for you and my faith in you, O Lord, be evidenced in what I say and do.

I know I’m dating myself, but when I got out of school, the TV series Dallas was just beginning.  Every Friday night, I made sure I would be home in time to see the next episode.  Each week as the show began, I thought how South Fork was such a beautiful ranch.  All the Ewings had gorgeous clothes.  None of them ever seemed to work very hard.  They had servants and hired help to take care of their every little whim.  It only took watching it once, though, to realize how far the façade was from being a true reflection of the Ewings’ lives.  Behind the scenes, they had drug problems, alcohol problems, and relationship problems.  The women were treated like numskulls.  JR was the most scurrilous business tycoon imaginable.  (The impetus for watching may have been loving to hate JR Ewing!)  In short, for all their wealth and beautiful surroundings, these were miserable people at the core.

Jesus is warning his disciples in today’s Gospel about this very sort of thing – the hypocrisy of showing the world a glittering, gleaming image that bears no relation to who we are on the inside.  Specifically, he’s talking about our relationship with God.  We can get away with being impressive on the outside for a while, but eventually the truth will come out.  The Pharisees consider themselves the religious people of their day.  They follow all the rules.  They are educated and know the Scriptures.  And they make it their business to let everyone know how upstanding they are and to serve as “policemen” of the Law.  They get away with this until Jesus comes on the scene and exposes them for the frauds they really are.  It’s all window dressing.  None of it stems from an inner relationship with the Father.  If they were close to Jesus’ Father, they would look much different on the outside.  They would be loving, caring, and merciful.  They would look after the needs of the poor and disenfranchised in their midst.  They would lose the self-righteous attitude.

In today’s first reading, the apostle Paul talks about Abraham.  What God calls righteousness in Abraham isn’t an impressive resume of all he’s done but the sincerity of his faith and trust in God.  When that’s what’s at our core, good works take care of themselves; they flow naturally from the relationship. 

Jesus desires that we be whole, from the inside out.  He has no time for hypocritical in-congruence.  If we are people of faith in our hearts, our works will reflect our trust in God’s goodness. 

What do others see when they look at you?  What image do you consciously project to the world?  Does who you are on the outside reflect who you are in your relationship with God?

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