The strong gospel passages of the beginning of this week continue to get under my skin. I seriously worry about being found a hypocrite and earning a hypocrite's condemnation from the Lord.
In my ministry I routinely have to call people on their failures in religious observance. For example, if someone comes to the office asking to be certified as a godparent, but is an inactive Catholic with no desire to remedy his condition, I have to say no. There are lots of ugly and upsetting arguments on this issue. And there are many situations similar to this, e.g. issues surrounding marriage and re-marriage, the refusal to bury the dead, etc.
But what right do I have? Am I so righteous? Does the religious community of which I am a member follow it's own Rule and Constitutions? Am I faithful as a religious to daily Mass, mental prayer, devotion to Our Lady, and annual retreat as I am obligated by Canon Law? (c. 663)
Priests routinely deny to me the existence of the obligation they accepted at their diaconate ordination to offer the full course of the Liturgy of the Hours each day. (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 29) Maybe some of the faithful have failed in their observance because we aren't praying for them as we have promised, and it is us who will be held accountable! I admit that sometimes I lose my edge by the end of the day and Night Prayer doesn't happen. Sometimes, because of grave negligence I hesitate even to confess, I forget to offer Evening Prayer on Sundays. So if the faithful lapse in the practice of the faith or fail to understand their own obligations, maybe it's because it is I who have failed them first!
Nevertheless, the spiritual task is the same. Useless anxiety, scrupulosity, and the indulgence of desires to correct those whom the Holy Spirit has not put into my care are all dead ends and blind alleys. What is useful is real fear of the Lord, the kind that lights you on fire with a desire for conversion.