The root of all evils is selfishness, just as, conversely, the root of all virtues is love.
—Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167)
Mirror of Charity 2.1.3
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
Eternal God, let us see ourselves as you see us. Does our righteousness stem from love, or selfishness? Do our prayers spring genuinely, or from hypocrisy? Are our good deeds and spiritual disciplines the fruit of divine character, or a petty legalism? Are we truly your children, or merely playing the part? Our hearts are so often deceitful, confused; remove both false guilt and false righteousness, that we might see truly. And implant in our hearts the root of love, that our prayers, our giving, our fasting may all demonstrate true holiness and not selfish hypocrisy. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
“Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone, don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.
“And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be honored.
May your Kingdom come soon.May your will be done here on earth,
just as it is in heaven.
Give us our food for today,
and forgive us our sins,
just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I assure you, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will suspect you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in secret. And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.”
Living out of love makes all the difference between true righteousness and hypocrisy. Love promotes friendship with God and all people; selfishness brings only falsehood, isolation, a fake righteousness that is both unbecoming and unsatisfying. Yet we not only deceive others with our hypocrisy, but, perhaps more tragically, we often deceive ourselves.
There are many who never see their own defects and shortcomings, but who are for ever looking for faults in others. The eye that sees all external objects sees neither itself nor its defects, so the opponents of truth see everything except their own faults. When we look into a glass the eye sees itself and its defects, so by living in the fellowship of the Word-made-flesh, and by measuring our lives by God’s written Word, we can truly know ourselves. And not only will He show us our state of sinfulness, but will reveal Himself to us in healing and saving power. Then, if we in obedience turn to him, and, continuing in prayer, live in His holy fellowship, He will take away our defects and transform us into His glorious image for all eternity, that we may also share with Him in His glory.
—Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929)