You Cannot Serve Two Masters - Hypocrisy
The following homily was given by Fr. Nichols at the Mother of Light Convent on Thursday, May 31st, 2018.
Yesterday we concluded our reflection on the First Reading from Acts with some startling promises to the Apostles and disciples of all ages. It was in answer to their prayer for strength to face intimidation and persecution. In today’s reading we find still more startling evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Ananias sold some property, and laid the proceeds at the feet of the Apostles for the common treasury. Now, no one was obligated to sell property of to give all or even part of it. Unlike earlier in Acts, it was common practice, it had already become a free will offering.
But Ananias decided to disguise his greed under the guise of charity. He in effect chose to deceive
The scenario is repeated with Sapphira, his wife. When she repeats the same lie, she suffers the same consequences. With regard to this incident, St. Ephrem the Syriac says: It was not merely because they stole something and concealed it, but because they did not fear God and sought to deceive those in whom the Holy Spirit dwelt, the Spirit who knows everything. By this hypocritical attitude Ananias and Sapphira demonstrate their greed and vainglory. The punishment they receive befits the circumstances. The Church is in a foundational period where disciples have a special responsibility to be faithful and God will be equally supportive.
St. John Chrysostom wrote: This fault could not have been treated lightly, but like gangrene, it had to be cut out before it infected the rest of the body. The deceiving couple themselves are not left to advance further in wickedness, and the good disciples are placed in “vigilance”.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that this episode shows how much God detests hypocrisy; and from it we can appreciate the value of truthfulness. Only a truthful person, a faithful person can keep the Lord’s commandments.
Bringing us back to yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus says: If you keep my commandments, you are my friends. Jesus spoke on the value of loyalty. Today he speaks on the comparison between Him and the world. In other places Jesus speaks of the world as good, for all creation is good, it is the abuse of creation that brings problems.
It is the abuse, the greed, the lust, the gluttony of created things that create tensions as they did for Ananias and Sapphira. St Gregory wrote: No one can be pleasing to God and to God’s enemy at the same time. You cannot serve two masters. You will love one and hate the other. Whoever seeks to please those who oppose God are no friend of God, whoever submits himself to the truth will fight against those who strive against the truth.
Over these past two days, we have seen some marvelous displays of power by the Holy Spirit. Some of these gifts remain while others as St. Ephrem explained were for the foundation of the nascent Church. We might only wonder if the Holy Spirit denounced the lie in a person’s heart with instant death, judgment was the immediate response, but repentance is the desired consequence.