When I entered a seminary some years ago, there was a lot of talk about how great it was. The bishop said it was the best in the country. It had new and effective management, some big names in the church, and an amazing building. There were a lot of new brochures and even a new, refurbished website. Well, after I arrived, I was doing the initial exploring of the building. You get the tour, and then later on, you start to explore for yourself. In the basement there were some storage areas and the usual basement stuff – and the laundry room.
When I went into the laundry room to check it out for the first time, the first thing I noticed was that the shelves all around the edge of the room were lined up with detergent bottles. Tide, Arm & Hammer, all the usual suspects filled the shelves. Then, as I scanned along, I noticed a wide-open spot on the shelves. Underneath was the word, “community”. As I looked closer at the detergent bottles, I noticed that each one of them had a person’s name written on it. As it turns out, every one of the 80 or so seminarians either kept their detergent in their room, or marked their bottles with their names.
There was no sharing.
Well, that first week, I went out and bought my own laundry detergent bottle. I got the extra large size, and I walked back from the CVS and entered the laundry room and plunked it down on the open “community” spot. After a year or so, a few more bottles appeared on the community spot, too. Something caught on.
But over that year, the detergent battles raged. Angry emails were exchanged among the seminarians. In person arguments. Somebody used someone’s detergent and owes them. These went on all year.
If you were to walk up the stairs from the laundry room, you would find that directly above it is the chapel. And every day, you would find crisp, clean clerical clothes; meticulous liturgy, with folded hands and artful formality; the men all singing and reciting together, shaking hands at the sign of peace. And the liturgy on Sundays impressed the lay people who came, what with the perfect choir and the incense smells and the special guests.
And near the end of every Mass in the chapel, everyone would receive the Blood of Jesus.
For the whole community.
In Matthew’s Gospel, he reserves Chapter 23 entirely for the hypocrites. The hypocrites are the religious leaders who look holy on the outside, but when you look under the hood, they are not the type of people you really want to be around. They are the type of people who will look holy and accept Jesus’ blood for free in front of others, and then in private refuse to share even an ounce of laundry detergent with those same people. I call that, The Show. It is all show. But what really matters is what’s under the hood.
That’s what Jesus sees.
Don’t be fooled by appearances and public actions. Don’t be fooled by the Show. Just because someone seems to have a place of power or fame or authority in society or religion or the company, doesn’t mean they should be trusted.
You have to check under the hood, you have to go down to the basement level, away from the public spotlight, to see if they are really people who are generous to the community.
That’s what Jesus sees.
“Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matt 23:27-28