Why Should I Attend Church with all the Hypocrites?

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam at St. Ignatius in Chic...

QUESTION: I do not attend Church because, as I see it, the parishes I’ve visited are filled with hypocrites. For sure, they are overflowing with those who profess Christian beliefs and virtues but they do not live as though they held these beliefs nor do they practice the virtues that they profess. I am better off just staying home and keeping myself away from such people.

 ANSWER:

Christ once spoke a parable that gets to the heart of this matter. In Luke Chapter 18, verse 9 through verse 14 he says the following: And to some who trusted in themselves as just and despised others, he spoke also this parable: “Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: ‘O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather than the other: because every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” __ Luke 18:9-14

Those who think that they are not sinners foolishly exalt themselves because as scripture says, we are all sinners. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar: and his word is not in us.” __ 1 John 1:8-10

So we should not be surprised to find ourselves amid sinners and hypocrites when we enter a Church. It is the place that they need to be. It is during the spiritual journey (begun in the Church) that some (not all) find their way to Heaven. There are no guarantees. It is a journey of faith that first has us professing the Truths of Christ with our lips though not necessarily with our actions. But in time this profession, coupled with the grace of God, can eventually lead us to accept these Truths in our hearts as well. At such time, we will make a strenuous effort to live the life that we have professed with our lips. But hypocrites should no more stay out of the Church because of their hypocrisy than we should stay out of the Church because they are sitting in the pews next to us. We all stand in need of the transforming love of Christ and we all need to seek His grace in overcoming our deficiencies.

The Church offers unique help and grace in our journey to God. For through the sacraments of the Church we are given the strength to continue the fight and the journey and the hope that is necessary in this quest. Without the sacraments we would succumb to despair and we would quit the journey altogether or fool ourselves into thinking that we could gain the sanctifying grace that is necessary for our salvation by ourselves. Let me illustrate by using an analogy to illustrate what this might be like.

 Let us say that I live in Maine with my family and I’m offered the job of a lifetime in Los Angeles. Let us also suppose that the only way that I can get to Los Angeles (as I haven’t the means to fly) is to drive in my car. So my hope is to drive to LA in my car and reach the destination that I long for. Thankfully, the highways are supposedly inspected for safety and the speed limits are regulated by law so that I can have great hope of arriving in LA without any mishaps along the way so long as I obey the speed limits that are posted along the highways. Now we also have hope that our fellow travelers will obey these speed limits and that all the roads have been inspected and that the bridges are safe, etc. But as we know, though most people profess to be law-abiding citizens, most do break the speed limit laws and from time to time our roads are not safe, sometimes due to criminal neglect. Should I abandon the only means that I have to reach LA because of this hypocrisy among my fellow drivers and the poorly managed government agencies that were established by our law makers to inspect these roads and keep them safe? Is my fear of going on this journey with all these hypocrites sufficient cause to abandon my only hope for occupational success? I do not know anyone who would stay in Maine because of it. Most would still take the chance and get in their car and begin the trip, even if they were law-breakers themselves.

 Why should it be any different for us when we begin the spiritual journey that Christ asks us to make? Though there is more at risk (our eternal happiness) some seem to make this argument to their own eternal loss.

Our hope is in the Church – not in our own privatized faith. Our own actions merit nothing unless they are somehow attached to the actions of Christ and the merit that He has gained for us. This is precisely what the Church offers. It is Christ Who made the Church an indispensable vehicle for those who seek Him. It is Christ that promised the Holy Spirit to the Church and it is Christ Who feeds us at the altar and forgives us our sins through the sacraments of His Church. Do I stay away from these gifts because I am not comfortable with the company that I have to keep? No more so than I should abandon the above trip to LA because I do not like or trust the other drivers on the road. Do I stay away because I too am a hypocrite who has sinned far too often? No more so than all the sinners who are called to repentance and a new life in Christ.

When everyone who professes their faith becomes perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect, we will no longer stand in need for the aid only available through the Sacraments of the Church. But until then, I hope that the rest of us are growing in holiness and laboring at being transformed in Christ for the greater glory of God.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Evil Incarnate: the Iniquity of our Political Elite

If I were to suggest to you that it is right and good that we should extend the freedom of our countrymen to include the execution of certain classes of people you would likely say to me that I should either have my head examined or be locked up for the good of society. Yet we have gone so far as to enact a law to protect the right of each and every woman to willfully murder the infant in her womb if that should be her wish.

 Supporters of such rights will argue incessantly about when this life form becomes a person but that is only a futile attempt to justify to the rest of society the immorality of their personal desires – or worse yet, a way to curry favor with others and empower themselves. We can all agree, at least, that a fetus is certainly a “life form” because it is absolutely certain that should we find such a thing on the Moon or Mars the headlines would immediately inform us that we had found life on another planet.

 Indeed if we can only find a single cell bacteria on another world it would be heralded and protected, studied and loved for all the potential good that might result from our study. Yet whatever the resulting good might be for these extra-terrestrial bacteria, the potential of a human life might certainly overshadow this scientific discovery: for each human being has at least the potential to become something wonderful or diabolic – but it is the individual’s choices that form them. They could become the next Einstein, Mother Teresa or Stalin. I dare say that bacterium from Mars will be more protected than a child in his mother’s womb.

 It is also a great wonder that we Americans spend more money and have more laws protecting the eggs of sea turtles than we do for the destruction of a child’s life. Is this to say that the potential life of a sea turtle is somehow sacred but the potential human life is of no consequence whatever? Have we lost our minds – or at least our moral sanity?

 I’m sure some naysayers would insist that this is not the same at all. After all, a rational human mother has the “right” to make these kinds of decisions and a sea turtle does not. So we conclude that we have a right (or even a moral responsibility) to protect her eggs because she can’t tell us whether she wants them to live or die. Naturally, our decision is that any mother would want her offspring to live and therefore we must do all in our power to make sure that these eggs remain safe. But if we somehow conclude that it is our proper role to protect a sea turtle’s potential offspring then why is it not acceptable to use the same logic to protect an unborn child? Any mother should want her offspring to live – natural law is proof of this fact.  So the mother that wants to abort her child must be insane.

 These same pro-abortionists are quick to pass laws to protect habitats and stop the extinction of a species as a ‘moral’ mandate. Violation of their laws can get you a hefty fine if you’re lucky or a lengthy stay in jail.

 If we as a society have a right to make decisions regarding sea turtles and other protected wildlife and we can give the right of abortion to a human mother then why can’t we as a society start making additional decisions for mothers: we could restrict the number of births to 1 child as in China. We could tell a mother that she must have an abortion if she wants to live in our quiet little upscale community or we might restrict her from giving childbirth due to her age or intelligence. Why not? After all, having a child past 30 can cause expensive medical costs, raise the chance of having a downs syndrome baby or worse. The liberal bureaucrat can simply claim that the child, in all probability, will not have a life worth living: a divine decision with eternal consequences made by a fool who bases life and death on actuarial tables and at the end of the day goes home to snug apartment and sleeps very nicely, thinking that he has done society a great good.

 The sanctity of human life and the dignity of human life have somehow been monstrously degraded. When we are too old and feeble I am sure that we will eventually follow suit and legalize euthanasia. What then: eliminate those who are handicapped, incapable of work or useless to society?

 How did we arrive at this juncture in a supposed civilized society? The news reporters and commentators have worked hand in hand with the self-proclaimed elite of this country to proclaim evil for good and to denounce good for evil. We have been given the country that we deserve by electing presidents, congressmen, senators and judges that do not respect people except as a source of power.

 They make laws for the people while exempting themselves, they establish rights that don’t exist so that they might be seen as true champions of the people. All the while they continually usurp our rights and buy our votes with entitlements to further their own selfish elitist power.

 We might apply the following scripture to our new elite taken from Matthew 23:25-33.

 “Woe to you scribes[1] and Pharisees[2], hypocrites; because you make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within you are full of rapine[3] and uncleanness. Thou blind Pharisee, first make clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside may become clean. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchers, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones, and of all filthiness. So you also outwardly indeed appear to men just; but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; that build the sepulchers of the prophets, and adorn the monuments of the just, and say: If we had been in the days of our Fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore you are witnesses against yourselves, that you are the sons of them that killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell?”


[1] scribesAlso called sopher, sofer. Judaism. one of the group of Palestinian scholars and teachers of Jewish law and tradition, active from the 5th century b.c. to the 1st century a.d., who transcribed, edited, and interpreted the Bible.

[2] PhariseesA member of a Jewish sect that flourished during the 1st century b.c. and 1st century a.d. and that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, adherence to oral laws and traditions, and belief in an afterlife and the coming of a Messiah.

[3] rapineThe violent seizure and carrying off of another’s property; plunder.