Faces on Faith: Removing the masks
This past Sunday my congregation celebrated Mardi Gras Sunday. We had a great Dixieland band, and beads and even a few masks. That’s one of the fun parts of Mardi Gras– wearing masks.
They are often very gaudy-bright colors, rimmed with beads and sporting fancy feathers. Masks, of course, are designed to hide your identity, or at times, to even change other people’s perceptions of who you are.
Some who wear masks during Mardi Gras do so in order to avoid accountability for raucous behavior. Kids wear masks on Halloween and pretend they are superheroes or vampires or Disney princesses. Robbers wear masks when they stick up a bank so that the tellers and guards will be unable to identify them later.
Actors and actresses sometimes wear masks to alter their appearance and fool the audience into thinking they are someone other than who they really are.
Interestingly, the English word hypocrite comes from a Greek word, hypokrites, which means an actor. In the ancient world of Greek theater, actors all wore masks.
A hypocrite, then, is one who wears a mask-one who covers up his or her real identity and pretends to be something other than what he or she truly is.
Yes, Mardi Gras with its masks is fun, but this is Ash Wednesday, and Ash Wednesday in particular, and Lent in general, is a time for removing masks.
We may indeed wear sack cloth and ashes, the traditional marks of repentance in the Hebrew Scriptures, but at root, this season is all about stripping away any and all pretense. It is about exposing ourselves for who we really are.
Indeed, that is the work of Lent. It is a time for removing our masks, and examining our souls. For while we may be able to fool other people, and even, at times, ourselves, in the end, we cannot fool God.
It is good to have times of feasting, of pretending. It is good to have days of Mardi Gras and nights of Carnival. But now it is Lent.
And the time has come for removing masks. The time has come for revealing who we truly are-not only to others, but most importantly to our very selves.