My father taught me many important lessons that I have carried my entire life. Being kind, saying thank you, and telling the truth are basic tenets by which to live a good life. He lived these traits in his own life and tried to instill them in his children.
When reading today’s gospel story from Matthew about the hypocrisy of the scribes and pharisees, I thought about my dad always saying, “Don’t just put things back where you found them; leave things better than you found them.” When I was younger, I thought he was talking about putting the tools back where they belong. He was actually saying, “Do things the right way.” Leave the world a better place, even in small kindnesses.
Jesus says about the religious leaders of the day, “Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” Examples of this hypocrisy abound all around us still. Public and religious leaders say one thing but do the opposite. As the saying goes, “practice what you preach.”
“Crude” was the word my dad often used to describe others when they would behave poorly toward others. How, in mistreating others, mocking someone, or telling lies, can one leave the world a better place than when one found it? Have we become crude as a culture? How do we reconcile rhetoric that devalues and excludes others who are different than we are with Jesus saying, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”?
Let’s all make an effort to leave the world just a little bit better at the end of each day.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and was the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.