Today’s memorial was established in 1726 to commemorate the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to Saint Simon Stock, the Superior General of the Carmelites. Our Lady promised a special blessing for everyone who wears her scapular. Since then, the Church has solemnly and repeatedly approved this devotion which began in England. For centuries, Catholics have taken advantage of the protection promised by Our Lady. The devout use of the scapular shows our trust in Our Lady’s motherly aid to help us at the hour of our death.
Oscar Wilde said that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. He also said that some people wear masks in order to disguise their intentions and activities. Such people are afraid of wholeness and of the truth.
Today’s readings tell us of such hypocrites who go astray because of hatred. Micah, who was a contemporary of Isaiah, warns against those who plot against good, upright people. And Saint Matthew describes how the Pharisees plotted against Jesus.
In contrast to the hypocrites, the good people mentioned in the first reading and Our Lord are people of integrity, of wholeness. Their lives aren’t fragmented or disordered. They don’t wear masks in order to deceive others. Rather their lives are whole and honest, held together by an integrity that flows from living according to God’s will.
Now we may wear masks, not because we are evil, but because we are afraid. For some people the thought of living without a mask is frightening. They say, ‘What if people don’t like the real me?’ If we can remove our masks, then we will discover freedom and there would be no need to play games in our relationships with others.
If we want our lives to be whole, honest and authentic, then we need to listen to prophets like Isaiah and Micah. In this, as in all things, Our Lord himself becomes our model and our example to follow. Now, of course, we need to bear in mind that such wholeness isn’t always the ticket to a comfortable life; it certainly wasn’t for Our Lord or for any of the prophets. But that wholeness is the ticket to a life centred on God, a life more transparent about our real values. When we remove our masks, we reveal our willingness to make the sacrifices that may flow from those values.
Each day at Mass, the Word of God we hear proclaimed, and the Eucharist we receive, will help us to identify and reinforce the virtues that will make us whole.