What do you look like when the mask is off?
In today’s Gospel from the Mass (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus, The Divine Psychologist, offers a profound lesson in self-honesty and the importance of humility:
 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others:  “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus, with His Divine insight, offers a stark assessment of the human hypocrites who seek to exalt themselves:
- Jesus, in His Divinity, has the deepest understanding of the human mind, for as the Word who was with God from the beginning (John 1:1), He created humans. And their minds.
- Here, Jesus is exposing the Pharisee who is a hypocrite; the word “hypocrite” comes from the world of Greek drama and means the mask that is put on to hide or change a person’s identity.
- The Pharisee, puts on a mask of self-righteousness, thinking that he is justified in his religious actions; implied by the commentary is the fact that the Pharisee lacks self-awareness: the Pharisee has worn the “self-righteous” mask so long, that he is convinced he is holy. Jesus exposes the folly, suggesting that the Pharisee needs to take off the mask and search his own soul. When he does, the Pharisee will find that he too is a sinner.
- In contrast, the tax collector wears no mask, and because of this, is able to see himself for what he really is.
- Of note: The picture above is Lon Chaney, the great actor, in his role as the Phantom of the Opera. In the movie, the Phantom wears a mask, but ultimately the mask is removed, exposing the physical ugliness of the Phantom.
Each of us, to some degree, wears a mask; we seek to fool the world and often ourselves.
Jesus, the Divine Psychologists offers this stark advice: Don’t be a hypocrite: Take off your mask and return to God in humility and obedience.