“I’ve been watching you – for two years.” Gail was in the process of cleaning up after a meeting at her parish. The speaker was a friend of hers with whom she had often worked on various parish and community projects. So, while Gail was understandably curious, she wasn’t unduly concerned by the comment. She just wanted to know why the woman had been watching her. “I wanted to see if you really were who you seemed to be.”
Further conversation followed. The woman explained to Gail that she was looking for someone to talk with about her spiritual journey and she wanted to be sure that the person she chose was authentically on a journey of her own.
“The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses … they preach but they do not practice … [A]ll their works are performed to be seen.”
Jesus was warning his followers that their leaders might not always be who they seemed to be and that they must “watch” who they would choose to follow. In other words, they were to continue to follow the law of Moses, but when choosing who they would follow they were to watch for those who “… really were who they seemed to be.”
A few years ago there was a television show called “Undercover Boss.” Each week the owner or CEO of a company would take on a temporary identity and spend a week working at some of the most menial jobs in their company. The hope was that in doing so they would develop a greater appreciation for the people who worked for them – and it usually worked.
These titans of industry took the risk of becoming servants and, in doing so, found that they actually became better bosses. And while these bosses obviously were not who they seemed to be, by humbling themselves they also ended up becoming exalted in the eyes of their employees.
If someone watched us what would they see? Are we really who we seem to be? Is our spirituality authentic or just a temporary identity we can take off when the TV show is over?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.