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Each of us knows exactly what a hypocrite is – because, at one time or another, we’ve all been hypocrites. Most of us also think we know what the word “sincere” means. But do we really?

The word “sincere” is taken from two Latin words: “sine” and “cere.” Put together, it means “being without wax.” What on earth does that mean?

While there’s some contemporary disagreement about the origin, the traditional understanding is that it was born in the marketplaces of Rome, along with another phrase: “caveat emptor,” or “buyer beware.” A person could work half a lifetime on a masterpiece of a statue, and one mistake with the chisel would make a crack. The less-than-scrupulous would fill the crack with wax and sell the statue as something whole.

A buyer could unknowingly pay a good price for a wax-filled garden statue. Over time, the rain, cold, and heat would work away at the wax – until one day, the wax would fall apart and make a bigger crack.

Just like Roman statues, our love and care must be “without wax” this new year.

St. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, “We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.”

In other words, St. Paul and the Apostles did not lord it over the Thessalonians: They didn’t have to. St. Paul came as a respectful person hoping to become a friend, to share with others what he cared about.

Often, we project ourselves in such a way that we set ourselves up as judges over someone else. But aren’t we all like wax-filled statues: equipped to point out someone else’s picadillo, but completely oblivious to our own?

Being Christian does not mean being perfect, and those who think they are perfect will never be Christian. As Christians, we acknowledge there are cracks we cannot fill. We acknowledge that we are in need of Mary’s Son.

If we admit that we, too, are less than perfect – if we say (and really believe) that we’re not always right – the world would be a much better place to live. Our homes would be places of peace and honesty.

St. Paul didn’t just bring the Good News of salvation. He also brought respect, friendship, and care. Since St. Paul spent time with the Thessalonians, the Thessalonians knew his words to be sincere. He was not someone preaching at them, but a friend sharing the truth that he had come to know and wanted them to have.

May we, like the Apostles, first be a friend and show respect for others in our lives. Then, when we speak – and speak we must – we won’t be coming from a judgment seat, but as a person also in need of healing, forgiveness, and love.

In this new year, may we share what we receive in such a way that people find in us a reason to believe in Mary’s Son.

Comments from readers

Pat Solenski - 01/25/2024 07:49 AM
Thank you Monsignor for a reminder of our own self awareness and how that affects our conversations with others. Enjoyed the analogy! I will be careful when I buy a garden statue!!!

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