Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Then Sr. Mary goes on to talk about how important humility was to the desert abbas and ammas. I especially like where she explains that the word “hypocrite” is Greek for “actor”… those folks who were on stage in ancient cultures and wore masks behind which they performed their plays; while actors of the day were held in high esteem, sometimes they didn’t make enough money and had to resort to other less-worthy occupations. Hypocrite eventually came to characterize someone who was two-faced… which is the connotation we find in scripture.
Sr. Mary also says that the theme… The Hidden Life… is not one that is readily understood in Western culture because we live in a post-Enlightenment/post-Freudian period… meaning that rationalism, psychology and self-fulfillment consume our thoughts and color our own self-understanding. Too-shay! Sr. Mary… you got it right on the nose!
Then the kicker… as I’m glancing at the newspaper this morning, I come across a headline over the Dear Abby-like column that makes me read the first letter from a 14-year-old girl:
I am arguably the smartest in the school and have never lacked confidence. I admit I am prideful and have never questioned my self-worth. I am always the one in the group with a sarcastic remark, although I am always careful never to hurt anyone with my words. I consider myself literate beyond my years… It appears to be overlooked that I do volunteer service regularly and have befriended outcasts when others wouldn’t look their way.”
The basic gist of the letter is that this young lady can’t figure out why she doesn’t have many friends and why people describe her as ‘cold’. The writers respond by telling her that a little humility would go a long way.
So I just have to laugh as my prayer time morphs from hypocrite to humility with a couple more related conversations in between. Okay God! I get it! Don’t be a hypocrite today! Message received!
Question of the day: If no one ever acknowledged all the good things you do, would that be okay?