Reflection for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I was a sophomore in high school there was a small group of us students who were discerning a vocation to the Religious Life. We lived together in a small house on the Motherhouse property and attended the Academy of the Holy Family, a residential school for local and international students (which continues to thrive here all these years later). Those of us in discernment were taught the basic steps toward developing a life of prayer, and we learned during our high school years that religious life was a calling for a commitment to virtuous living for the love of God. Many of us later entered the novitiate and became Sisters of Charity. It was a wonderful way to come to understand the meaning of a religious vocation and to ‘try it on for size’ before making a definite decision to enter the convent.
We had a conference once a week with a Sister who had already professed perpetual vows in the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity. Each Sister discussed some aspect of living a holy life, but there was always a conference once a month from our beloved Mother Lucia. She was well into her eighties, blind, and greatly handicapped by severe arthritis. But her heart was on fire! We hung on her every word, coming as it did from the deepest place in her soul. I recall nearly word for word the talk she gave us several times on sincerity. Most of us had no idea what that word meant the first time we heard her, but we soon came to understand that without sincerity, there could be no authentic holiness, and certainly no fidelity in the life of a consecrated religious woman. Or any woman or man for that matter.
In today’s Gospel, Mark, Chapter 7, Jesus talks about something He doesn’t like, and we don’t either. It’s hypocrisy, which is the opposite of sincerity. In the context of the Gospel, Jesus is telling the religious leaders that they demand difficult things of the people that they won’t do themselves, and they sometimes do the right thing for the wrong reason. So Jesus is reminding them, and us, that there can be insincerity in our words, our actions and our motives which threaten to destroy our relationships with our peers, and surely between our souls and the Heart of God. I have a sense that Jesus didn’t have a very good audience in that Gospel passage, and I examine myself on whether or not I have forgotten Mother Lucia’s words at any time in my day.
God sees us from the inside out—not in an intrusive way, but because He formed us in our mother’s womb and has never stopped knowing us or loving us. We owe it to Him to be always careful to keep Him as the reason for everything we do: the most insignificant actions and the great projects we undertake. He must always be the still point around which our lives revolve, so there is nothing false or less than genuine about us. People must know that what they see is what they get, to put it bluntly, so they never have to wonder where we are coming from. Let it be said that we come from God and we are going to God, that nothing untrue or unkind passes our lips, and that we are completely sincere.
In the early days of pottery making and marble sculptures, some Old World artists would find a crack in the material they were working on. They might choose to fill the crack with wax, which would blend in with the coloring of the original material. Thus, when people bought the objects, they had no idea there was a crack. Later, the wax would melt, making the object unsightly or unusable. The Latin word for wax is cera. A question a person might ask the artist was, “Sine cera?” Is it without wax? From this comes the word sincere—without wax.
God has a right to expect that we are sine cera— without wax—sincere, truthful, real, the opposite of hypocrisy. May we always be found pure. Mother Lucia would appreciate that. So would Jesus.
God bless you.