1. Men of the world look at the outward appearances of things and are often satisfied with that. Many of them desire and long for physical beauty, wealth, high social status and honours. It does not matter to them if beneath this splendid façade there are concealed a mean and impoverished spirit, a corrupt and dishonest heart, an egoism indifferent to noble ideals, and an astuteness intent on ousting potential rivals. All this is unimportant as long as they are successful and can keep up appearances.
We tend to live for what others think and say about us, in other words, for external appearances.
2. St. Augustine contemplated the haughtiness and ostentatiousness of so-called great men who assumed airs of demi-gods. “Take away the arrogance,” he commented, “and what are men but men?” How true this is.
“Man seeth those things that appear,” says the Holy Spirit, “but the Lord beholdeth the heart.” (1 Kings 16:7)
God is interested in the soul, not in surface appearances. The philosophy of the world is much different from the teaching of the Gospel. “Unless you turn and become like children,” Jesus tells us, “you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3) “Learn from me,” He says elsewhere, “for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11:29)
To which side do we belong? Are we concerned about external appearances, high position, praise, and worldly honours? Do these things make up our purpose in life? If so, we are not sincere Christians.
We must ask with St. Paul whether it is right for us to seek to please men or God. If we are striving after outward appearances, looking for praise and worldly honour, we have not advanced in the way of perfection. It is necessary to seek the glory of God in all things if we desire to be holy.
3. The false virtuousness of the Pharisees consisted in an outward show which concealed a spiritual vacuum and eventually led to interior corruption and hypocrisy. Jesus was merciful, humble, and gentle towards everybody, even towards sinners such as the adulteress, Mary Magdalen, and the good thief. He was relentless and stern only when confronted by a certain type of wickedness – hypocrisy. He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers, and likened hypocrites to “whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness.” (Mt. 23:27) How dreadful if we were to belong to such a category, for we should be already judged and condemned. The fundamental law of the Gospel is sincerity; we must have charity and purity of intention.
Hypocrisy and duplicity have no place in Christianity. Let us examine ourselves strictly and if we discover anything false or distorted in our personality let us resolve to correct it.