The one thing which always angered Jesus of Nazareth was hypocrisy.
Whether it came from the chief priests, scribes, pharisees or his own apostles and followers, he roundly and directly rejected it.
It included refusal to accept the truth which is staring one in the face, for selfish reasons, such as greed, fear of losing control and power or loss of ‘face.’
Although todays Gospel reading is directed towards the Jewish religious leadership of the day it is as easily applicable to the religious leadership of today.
Even in the last fifty years many of God’s servants, both clerical and lay, sent by God to remind the tenants of the vineyard that it was not theirs to do with as they pleased and that they owed the owner his proper share of the harvest, have been expelled from the vineyard (the Church) and metaphorically stoned.
We today (both clergy and laity) have to shed our hypocrisy also. Looking deeply into my heart I must ask myself are my prayers and devotions, declaring my love and gratitude to God, authentic and true, or merely compliance, and a covering of my posterior? Are my declarations of undying loyalty to my God largely motivated by fear and a desire to ‘gain’ a place in heaven, or avoid ‘hell’? Is our failure to inspire our children, grandchildren and friends with an appreciation of the goodness and love of our God, the result of the lack of such appreciation, gratitude and love in my own dealings with God?
This is hard for I and you to accept.
Far from wishing to condemn, we must accept the fact that in this matter we have largely failed.
But as Jesus of Nazareth said; “The truth will set you free.” Free to recognise my hypocrisy, discard it, and move forward to a proper relationship with my God, based on understanding, gratitude and a total trust in the goodness of God, no matter what situation I find myself in.
This is true religion. This is authentic religion. Anything else is counterfeit and will immediately be recognised as such by our children, grandchildren and friends.
I for one, have for many years lived a false religion and a false God.
No wonder so many have rejected our religion and our God.
My aim is not for us to look back in guilt, or allow ourselves to become disheartened, discouraged or depressed. Rather that we should rejoice that we are now beginning to understand our past hypocrisy and are moving towards a good relationship with the true God. A God who is happy, joyful, compassionate, forgiving and totally good.
Pope Francis is today gently removing from the vineyard (from church leadership) the original tenants and trying to replace them with tenants who will give God his rightful share of the harvest.
This is sparking great opposition and protests just as it did in Jesus’ time.
So in our Faith, in our Church, in our parish, in our lives, let us move forward together, with joy in our hearts and a total trust in our God, for whom ‘all things are possible.’