By Jerome Placido
September 3, 2012
Being part of three very different Prayer Communities in the past 10 years and also the domestic prayer community of my family I have seen many come and go (including myself). The community in which I am a part of right now, the Mary Help of Christians Crusade (MHCC) locally known in Moreno Valley as the Lambs of Christ (L.O.C.) has definitely seen it’s ups and downs. When I speak to people about this community or even about the Catholic Church, or Christianity in general, the objection has always come up that each is full of hypocrites. Just so we’re on the same page:
This is a pretty serious accusation. Jesus on a few occasions in the Bible call the Pharisees hypocrites (Mt 15:7, 16:3, 22:18 just to mention a few). In the same Gospel of Matthew he says “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Mt 23:31-33)
These hypocrites prove as scandals because rather than drawing people to their religious beliefs and morals they turn others away from them. To be a scandal is a serious offense and our Lord in Luke 17:2 says that it is better for that person that a millstone be tied around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. Here’s some pictures and information on what a millstone is:
As you can see that definitely would be far from pleasant. But this is the grave nature of causing scandal and in leading or deterring people from what is good and holy.
Bill Sunday, an American Athlete and influential Evangelist of the 1880’s said this:
“Hypocrites in the Church? Yes, and in the lodge and at the home. Don’t hunt through the Church for a hypocrite. Go home and look in the mirror. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less.”
We don’t have to go far to find them. G.K. Chesterton a famous convert to the Catholic Faith in 1922 has been noted to have said: “Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our own worst enemies within us”
So what is the lesson to learn here? Well that’s really up to you. Take this with a grain of salt if you like. Or take it to heart and let it change your outlook on prayer communities, the Church, or individuals in general. But I can tell you without a shred of doubt that this community is interested in Christ and what it takes to achieve what St. John Bosco calls the greatest success we can ever have: Heaven.
Am I saying that outside of this prayer community everyone else is lost? Absolutely not. Again using the example of St. John Bosco for his boys in his Oratory, our community has an open door to which youth and it’s leaders may come and go as they please. However with that coming and going I urge you to ask yourself if that move would make you closer or further from God. This is the very thought that should drive all our actions and decisions.
That being said, no matter where we go there are going to be people who we just may not always see eye to eye in opinions or personalities may just naturally conflict. These things should not be the driving force of whether or not we join or leave a group. Especially when it comes to groups and communities regarding our faith it should be based on prayer and discernment and how our spiritual journey to God will be directly affected.
I have made my own mistakes and guarantee that there are still mistakes that are going to be made. Some of my shortcomings may have been contradictory of my what I have professed to believe. I propose that the difference between a hypocrite and someone who is sincere is the purity of their intention and the earnest effort to do better. Since we can measure neither effort or intention sujectively, we tread dangerous grounds to throw such accusations around.
Out of charity towards our brothers and sisters we should do all we can ourselves to ensure we do NOT include ourselves among the hypocrites and pray for those who may struggle with their own intentions. Dr. Richard Sudek from Chapman University in his TEDx Talk “Courage to Fail” posed the following question: “How many of you would fail ten thousand times to succeed?” I can guarantee you even the great saints of the church had experienced some disappointments and failures in their lives. They did not waiver in the face of sin but loved with the mercy and compassion of God and we are challenged to do exactly the same. Follow the Good Shepherd and know that “once a lamb… always a lamb.”