Take a moment to read the opening verses of today’s gospel reading :
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
I wonder if this leaves you feeling as uneasy and challenged as it leaves me. As a priest I am considered by many to be a professional preacher, but far too many times most days I fall sadly short of the ideal I preach.
I suppose I could silence those who accuse me of hypocrisy by preaching only the parts of the gospel that I manage to live, but then I would fail in my call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I know that I am not alone in my struggle with the gap between the good news that I strive to preach and the life I too often live.
We all strive to forgive and find ourselves savouring hurt and even hate.
We seek justice and get caught in our own meanness and timidity.
We preach the freedom given by Jesus, but refuse to let go of the prison bars.
We long to live in love, but get trapped in our fear.
But imagine if we only preached the parts of the gospel we fully lived? The gospel would never be preached and people would never hear of Christ.
The fact is that when we speak of Christ and his message to encourage others, we are also holding ourselves to the life-giving ideal of Christian faith.
The healthy Christian lives in this gap between the life we are called to and long for, and our human imperfection and frailty. This gap is the place of our earthly human existence. We can encourage each other with this fact, and most of all remember that any failing, weakness or sin that we fall into is not a problem for God.
A hypocrite is someone who pretends they live something that they are not living. So, we Christians are not hypocrites, we are sinners who know our need for God.
All we need to do is to return to our desire for God, and let this desire re-open the highway of hope between God and ourselves.