UNVEILING THE MASK OF PRETENSE
First Reading: Genesis 27:1-5,15-29
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 134(135):1-6
Gospel Reading: Matthew 9:14-17
In a contemporary world where face masks have become synonymous with safety and protection, we are simultaneously ensnared in the fierce repercussions of their misuse. Gaining its popular usage in society during the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, the face mask swiftly ascended to the status of obligatory attire, such that when not in use, one may be barred from public domains, gatherings, and affairs (especially as I witnessed here in Brazil and some other countries); all in a good attempt to curb the spread of the virus. As the face mask conceals a significant portion of our faces—the nose, lips, and jaw—it provides a unique opportunity for those inclined towards pretense and deception to hide their true identities. By combining the mask with other accessories such as dark glasses, it becomes even more challenging to recognize an individual, further deepening their facade of duplicity. This unfortunate misuse of the face mask serves as a poignant reminder of the presence of pretense in our world. It underscores the dissonance between one’s external appearance and the authenticity of their character. Just as the mask creates a barrier, shielding the truth, individuals who employ it as a tool of deception create a barrier between their true selves and the perception they seek to project to others. Today, as we delve into the liturgical readings, we are invited to peel away the layers of pretense to uncover the transformative power of embracing authenticity and truth. These passages expose the consequences of pretending to be someone we’re not, inviting us to remove the mask of falsity and embrace the beauty of our genuine selves.
To begin with, the story of Jacob in the First Reading (Genesis 27:1-5,15-29) exposes the dangerous consequences of pretense. Seeking to receive his brother Esau’s blessing, Jacob, aided by his mother, disguises himself, masking his body to deceive his father, Isaac. This act of pretense, born out of ambition and self-interest, sows seeds of discord and fractures the trust within Jacob’s family. Later in the book of Genesis 29:15-30, we see Laban who initially agreed to give Rachel to Jacob as his wife, deceived him by switching Rachel with her older sister, Leah, on their wedding night. Also, in Genesis (chapter 37:31-33), we witness the tragic repercussions of Jacob’s deception as his own sons deceive him, using a blood-stained coat to feign their brother Joseph’s death. Jacob’s actions remind us that when we engage in pretense, we sacrifice authenticity and genuine connection, risking irreversible consequences. And in contrast to the deceitful actions of Jacob, the responsorial psalm emphasizes the importance of worshiping the one true God who is faithful and worthy of our trust.
Similarly, in the Gospel Reading from Matthew (9:14-17), Jesus addresses the issue of fasting and the mask of pretense that can accompany it. The disciples of John the Baptist, as well as the Pharisees, engaged in fasting as a religious practice. However, Jesus challenges their motives, questioning whether their fasting was merely a show of righteousness or a genuine expression of devotion. He exposes the danger of fasting without recognizing its true meaning and using it as a mask of pretense, where outward observance masks a lack of inner transformation. Jesus invites them—and us—to embrace authentic devotion, where our actions align with our true selves and our hearts are genuinely connected to God.
When we strip away the mask of pretense, we create space for genuine relationships to flourish. By embracing our true selves, flaws and all, we invite others to do the same, fostering connections rooted in trust, honesty, and mutual understanding. Furthermore, when we abandon the mask of religious pretense, our acts of devotion become authentic expressions of love and reverence for God. We are no longer bound by external displays but are transformed from within, radiating the light of our true identity.
Dear friends in Christ, as we navigate life’s intricacies, let us heed the lessons of unmasking the pretense. Just as masks have been a prominent symbol during the pandemic, reminding us of our collective responsibility, let us also recognize the masks we may wear to hide our true selves. Jacob’s deceit and the warning against superficial religious practices in the Gospel Reading compel us to remove the mask of falsity and embrace the freedom and beauty of authenticity. May we courageously peel away the layers of pretense, embracing the truth of who we are, flaws and all. Let us nurture genuine relationships built on trust, transparency, and love. In our acts of devotion, may we seek a deep connection with God that emanates from the depths of our hearts. As we unmask the pretense, we step into a world of authenticity, where our true identities can shine forth, transforming our lives and those around us. May we be liberated from the chains of pretense, embracing the freedom and joy that come when we live as our genuine selves, unmasked and unafraid.
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© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo, Brazil
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