Character is what you do when no one is looking
Saturday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)

Doug McManaman
Reproduced with Permission

“The person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones”.

It has been said that character is what you do when no one is looking. That’s what I thought of when I read this verse of the gospel that speaks of being faithful in small matters, when no one is looking. And no one is looking, because they are small matters, and people generally interested in the big things. But one’s true character is revealed in the small things. Christ said that we will be judged on how we behaved in the small and apparently insignificant matters, when no one was looking--or so we thought no one was looking: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was sick and in prison and you visited me, naked and you clothed me”. They will reply: “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked and sick and in prison?”

In other words, in our minds, no one was looking. But the Lord was looking. The wicked, those who live primarily for themselves, neglected those who are insignificant in the eyes of the world, those who are least in importance, those to whom very few pay attention. They revealed their true character to Christ, who wants nothing to do with them at the end of time. Those who belong to the light served the needs of those who are insignificant in the eyes of the world, believing all the while that no one was looking, because they too said: “When did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked, …”

Evil is always well disguised. It always hides under the façade of goodness. The truly evil among us will often appear as paragons of virtue. But as Christ said, underneath the sheep’s clothing, underneath the façade of innocence, they are wolves, and wolves look out for themselves. “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”

We, of course, do not always know the hearts of others. But Christ counsels us to be shrewd, as we saw in yesterday’s gospel. We are to be shrewd as serpents, innocent as doves. Generally speaking, we’ve lost our shrewdness, probably as a result of the influence of the Behaviourist school of psychology. And that’s something that the wolves in sheep’s clothing have achieved. They’ve managed to convince almost everyone that one must never judge, that everyone is good willed, that being a Christian means seeing only what is good in others. That is why those who have a narcissistic personality disorder, for example, make sure they are surrounded by precisely these kinds of people. That’s how they survive. In an environment in which no one is willing to see, no one is willing to judge what is evil. In the gospel, Christ did not counsel us never to judge. He said, rather, to take the plank out of your own eye, and once you have done that, then you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. Once your sight is unobstructed, then you can judge, certainly not the guilt of another, but the evil that you now see. The sociopath, the white-collar psychopath, and the narcissist will have nothing to do with people who are shrewd, because they see through the façade.

We keep our eyesight unobstructed through purity of heart, by having an undivided heart, or an undivided love for God. You cannot serve God and wealth, as this gospel pointed out. Our entire life must be lived not for money, not for self, but entirely and completely for God. If we are rooted in the truth, who is Christ, we won’t be deceived. We’ll see clearly. We’ll be able to penetrate the disguise of those who belong to darkness and yet who appear otherwise.