If one were to write a reflection on what things bothered Jesus the most when he preached, you would have to mention his deep concern for hypocrisy. Over 20 times Jesus speaks strongly against it. The word comes from the Greek krino which means to cut into something, or in this case, to interpret. It is used for acting or interpreting literature.
For Jesus acting religious and not being sincere is honoring God with the lips while our heart is far from Him. Why is Jesus so vehemently disturbed by hypocrisy? True religion is to love God with one’s whole soul and heart and mind. A hypocrite is one who acts or dissembles as one who loves but really does not. Their concern is what they look like to others. If I look good to others than I am good, even if I am filled with corruption like a white washed tomb. Their religion is directed to humans not to God.
An actor is very good when he or she looks like the person they are presenting. In real life they might be the opposite. Sir Lawrence Olivier said that a good actor is a good liar. I remember when I was young Ingrid Bergman acted as Joan of Arc in a popular movie. Later, when she had a child out of wedlock people were all upset. How could a saint do such a thing? In reality Bergman was not even a Catholic, but she was an excellent actress.
In the last analysis it is a form of idolatry. Idolatry is the ultimate sin of worshiping the creature rather than Creator. Pure religion is of little interest to them because their mind is with the self. They use religion to look good. Their concern is the outside appearances and not with pleasing God. They use God to advance their self worth in the eyes of others.
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. lives in the Passionist community in Detroit, Michigan. His primary ministry is preaching parish missions.