In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’” He goes on to remark how the people thought John the Baptist was crazy because he did not eat or drink. But when Jesus both ate and drank, they called him a glutton and a drunkard.
Indeed, this world has many contradictory and bewildering standards.
One of the great human struggles is to become free of being simply defined by others, of being under the world’s judgments, such that we lack any personal conviction or deep, stable, and serene core.
An old African proverb says “if I don’t know I am , anyone can name me.”
Somewhere in the midst of the the world’s demands for conformity to its ephemeral standards, every human person must come to know the man, the woman, that God has made us to be.
This does not mean, especially in youth, that we do not seek guidance from people and elders that we trust. But in the end, there must be that very private journey with God that every human person makes. It is the journey to discover one’s true self, as God gently reveals.
It is to this deep truth, that Jesus refers in the Gospel referenced above. The world cannot be our measure. Too often its standards are passing, foolish, and highly inconsistent. The hearken to its cacophonous voice is a sure invitation to high anxiety, and deep inner conflict.
There is a saying, A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.
Jesus too, warns, “No one can serve two masters.” But, sadly, most of us try. And frankly, it is not merely two masters, but hundreds.
Not so with Jesus.
Jesus defied and resisted most of the ways in which people try to define him. He was Messiah, but he would not be the Messiah and in any way they understood. He would not ride in on a war horse and usher in a bath of blood, or follow a career of conquest. He would die as a suffering servant.
Neither would he simply be reduced to being the Bread King (Jn 6:15), or the medical miracle worker (Mk 1:38). He was sure to hit the road and move onto the next town before he would let others label him as such.
He came to bear witness to the truth, and to save us, not so much from economic calamity or health problems, not from political enemies, but, rather, from our very self, from our own sins.
No, Jesus would not be defined by this world. He was free from its grip; it had no power over him.
To the same freedom, the Lord ultimately summons us.
In Matthew, Chapter 6, the Lord teaches on the problem of hypocrisy. The Lord’s insight into this problem of hypocrisy is far more penetrating, more rich, than anything we moderns mean by the word. We generally mean by it, “to be inconsistent…to say one thing and do another.” But hypocrisy is a far deeper problem, a more poignant issue of our hearts.
For Jesus, hypocrisy is the sad state of a human being who is reduced to the status of being an actor on the stage, looking for applause. (The Greek word hypocritas means “actor”). And the tragic reduction of the human person this state of being an actor occurs because we do not know the Father.
It is a sad fact that most people find their navigating points in this world, and assess how they are doing, not from the heavenly Father, but from the reaction of the crowd. Like actors on a stage we play the part expected of us, looking for applause; desperately looking for applause.
And of course those who struggle with hypocrisy, are in fact inconsistent. Why? Because the audience changes. And, as Jesus notes, when the world pipes a tune, we’re supposed to dance. When the world plays a dirge, we darn well better wail.
Yes, hypocrisy is a sad and poignant problem.
To every example of hypocrisy in Matthew 6, (giving alms, fasting, praying), the Lord gives the solution: “your heavenly Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.”
Yes, it is enough that the heavenly Father sees and knows. And it is the invitation, the journey, that the Lord invites us to make, that it be enough that heavenly Father sees and knows who I am, and what I do. It is enough that He show me my true self.
To be sure, this personal journey with the Lord, the journey to discover our true self, is not an invitation to hideous idiosyncrasies, and sociopathic behavior. Holiness may in fact, and does often, startle this world. But it is not unnecessarily disruptive, and it is not simply “weird.” Discovering our true self, leads to serenity, a peace which this world cannot give, but also, a peace which this world cannot deny.
So, A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.
Who are you watching? And what time is it in your life? Is it a time of silly teenage conformity and peer pressure? Or is it a time of serene and mature self understanding, rooted in the Father?