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Insincerity is an Evil From Within

A man named Ananias, however, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. He retained for himself, with his wife’s knowledge, some of the purchase price, took the remainder, and put it at the feet of the apostles. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the Holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control? Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last, and great fear came upon all who heard of it. (Acts 5:1-5)

Ananias’ fault was not in retaining a portion of the land’s selling price, but in deceiving the community. St. John Henry Newman referred to this passage with the following comment:

…nothing is so rare as honesty and singleness of mind; so much so, that a person who is really honest is already perfect. Insincerity was an evil which sprang up within the Church from the first.

Insincerity is an evil which springs up from within. Isn’t that true! Little non-truths (perhaps not outright lies) and lack of sincerity gnaw at us, eroding relationships and trust.

If we consult our experience, we are hurt more by a loved one who is two-faced than by the more flagrant untruths of a stranger. Those closest to us can even cover insincerity by convincing themselves that their words are virtuous:  “I was being kind when I said her talent was extraordinary. She will learn the truth when she interviews for the job.”

Insincerity erodes from within because insincerity is a form of deceit. And one act of kind deception excuses the next act of deception, and the next…

It is sometimes difficult to be sincere – to say or do something that may not be well-received, especially by family members and peers. Yet, to avoid truth often leads to ambivalence or uncertainty, as one attempts to please others while avoiding an inner conviction.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote about an adult who approaches the sacrament of Baptism insincerely – perhaps not believing in the sacrament’s effects or receiving the sacrament with disdain. Baptism is received. Yet the baptized person’s attitude inhibits the reception of grace. However, conversion of heart and the sacrament of Penance can remove this obstacle.

Can you identify insincerity that undermines your relationship with our Lord or with others? God, who is Truth, draws us. How will you respond?

John Henry Newman, “Sermon 3: Unreal Words” in Parochial and Plain Sermons, (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1997), p. 978.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, III, Q. 69, A. 10.

Sister Mary Judith O’Brien, RSM is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma. She serves as chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.