Someone I respect and admire greatly once said: “Be careful who you listen to because you might end up with their results.” Looking back, I think we can all recall a time where someone tried to give us advice on a certain subject, and we knew this person did not follow their own advice, and we’ve thought to ourselves “Gee that person is a hypocrite”. Often, I found myself in that situation, especially at work, probably since I was the youngest one employed there. I always found myself torn to receive such advice, especially knowing the giver of said advice didn’t follow it. I would ask myself: “Are they trying to help me or simply trying to impose their way of thinking? Do I listen to their advice or choose to ignore it because I know he/she doesn’t follow it?” You see, we as people tend to hold ourselves accountable based on our intentions and others accountable based on their actions. So I guess the real question I should have asked my self is: “Do I listen to the message or do I listen to the messenger?”
Most of us are familiar with the line “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.” The beauty of today’s gospel is when we heard Jesus say: “do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do for they do not practice what they teach.” To me, Jesus’ message is clear: follow the message, not the messenger; for in this gospel, Jesus is giving us the freedom to hear the message without the external expectations imposed on us by the messenger, so that we do not conform to the messenger’s will. We also heard: “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi. ‘You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers”, and “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”I interpret these to mean that all Jesus wants for us is to remember that we should not seek the admiration of people, for we are all equals. He wants us to remember that when we do or say anything, we should first and foremost, do it for God’s glory.
Writing this reflection has given me a lot of time to think about how I could put into action what Matthew’s gospel is teaching. I can remember several times in my life where I would say: “I’m not a hypocrite”. This reflection has taught me that I have been, albeit, unintentionally. Hypocrisy is defined as: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. I have said that I put God first in my life but realistically I haven’t. It’s been easy to say that I put God first, but have I done so with my actions? There have been times where something comes up that distracts me from either prayer, or attending Mass. Every Sunday at Mass, do I take the time to really listen to the message? When I see someone in need, do I really take the time to help as best I can? Am I striving to conform my character to God’s? It seems like such an impossible standard, but have I even tried? Hearing and reading this gospel made me realise that what I want more then anything is to stop being a hypocrite. I will strive to be intentional with my faith and place God at the forefront of my thoughts and my actions.