I often come home to find my youngest son dressed up like a superhero. He has superhero pajamas complete with cape. When we meet, I become the evil monster and he proceeds to fling me around the room like a rag doll. He loves to pretend that he’s this other person and his strength is far superior to even the strongest man he knows.
In college a friend hosted a Halloween party and everyone dressed up in some very creative costumes. Two of my friends wore all black and the “Van Gogh” masks from the movie Scream. These masks are simple but disturbing. The black mesh allowed the wearers to see the party-goers but we could not see them. For hours they silently walked around or stood in a corner and stared at us. They wouldn't speak, eat or drink thus continuing to conceal their identity. It was un-nerving to say the least.
Apart from Halloween, we all have masks that we wear. We all have costumes that we put on and we pretend to be someone we are not. Many times these masks and costumes are needed for survival. Most of the time, we are only fooling ourselves.
There are two serious dangers inherit in these masks and costumes. First, if we wear them long enough, we may start to believe that we’re the superhero or the villain. We may start to believe that we’re destined to save the world while ignoring the needs of our family and neighbors. We may start to believe that we’re unlovable and find ourselves hurting others to mask our own hurt. Second, not only do masks and costumes give us the false idea that we’re someone we are not, they conceal who we truly are.
In today’s Gospel Jesus utters the most frightening words in Scripture, “I do not know where you come from” or “I do not know you” in some translations. Why would Jesus not know me? Did He change? No, He simply cannot see through the mask and costume I’ve made for myself. He knew me when I was in my mother’s womb but now He no longer recognizes me.
This Gospel passage is given as a warning and warnings, taken correctly, can instill a great deal of hope. We are given the chance to learn from the mistakes of others. The passages illustrate the continual need for self-examination, humility, and spiritual direction. Without these things, our masks and costumes become harder and harder to remove.
Let us pray for the courage and grace to follow St. Paul’s advice regarding masks and costumes…"Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of Christ…put on the breastplate of righteousness…shod your feet with the equipment of the Gospel of peace…take the shield of faith…the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit." (Romans 13:12, Ephesians 6:13-17)