There are many reasons why people say they do not attend Mass anymore. Among the reasons they quote, one is their perceived hypocrisy of Catholics who worship faithfully. They accuse Catholics of being all talk and no action. Sometimes of course these accusations are unfair and reveal more about the mindset of the person making them than the Catholics they are attacking. Many times the person making this accusation is being self-righteous and sanctimonious, just like the young man in Dostoevsky’s novel who clearly sees through the hypocrisies in his society. Dostoevsky titled the work, “The idiot”.
But sometimes the accusations are spot on! Sadly, there are many Catholics who are very bold in what they say and what they do at mass and wear flashy religious items for people to see, but whose actions betray them to the point that people might say, “if that’s what being a Catholic is all about, I want no part of it!” As Catholics the worst thing we can do is be hypocritical. We cannot simply talk about how much we love God without actually doing it. Pope Francis is certainly showing us that in teaching us to be concerned about the needs of the poor and looking out for other people. Many times, though, the hypocritical situations have nothing to do with the social justice teachings that we lack but simply the courtesies and the common charity that are missing in our relationships with friends, coworkers, and family members. I am amazed sometimes when I watch what quarreling spouses will do to each other. These are people who once promised to love each other for the rest of their lives and for whom the other person is supposed to be the most important person in their lives, and the mean, vindictive, and downright cruel things that sometimes they’ll say and do to each other is deplorable. People who give a lot of money to poor people in foreign lands but who treat their loved ones like garbage are not fooling anyone. Others will see right through us and only see a phony.
We are hardly being a good example of Christ to others if we are not loving those around us and if we are not trying each and every day to be the best person we can be. To put it simply, our faith is not just for an hour on Sunday. We will impress no one by our prayer on Sunday if we forget about it on Monday.
Are we trying to live as intentional disciples of Jesus? Are we going about each and every day trying to be the people that Christ wants us to be? Are we intentionally working to be people who bring Christ to everyone we meet and who live the gospel each and every day, for whom faith is not merely a creed we follow but a way of life? If we are not actively and consciously working at this each and every day, then the clear answer to us is “no, it is not!” Honest people will forgive us our shortcomings and sins, but they will not forgive hypocrisy. The world doesn’t need a lot of hypocrites. The world doesn’t need a lot of people going around telling God how much they love him; the world needs people who tell God they love him and show it by their love for one another, whether it be the poor, people in foreign countries who are in need, or the people in our own families, our neighborhoods, our schools, and our workplaces. Christ’s love extends to everyone and no one is outside the reach of his love, especially those closest to us. If we wish to truly be effective Christians who lead many people to Christ, there is no escape from loving one another as Christ has loved us.