Some of us probably look better with our masks on than off. Though inconvenient, they provide us some notable advantages, e.g., I don’t feel compelled to shave every day; many women save significantly on lipstick and make-up expenses; we’re not popping in breath mints quite as often… Realizing they are necessary during Covid, we ought to also realize that mask-to-mask is a poor substitute for face-to-face and, even during this pandemic, we can be enriched by spiritual unmasking efforts.
I’ve seen several “Jesus masks,” including a few that people have made for me and I am sure that our Lord would willingly put on a mask to protect others during Covid-19, but He was clearly not a fan of mask-wearing. In the Gospel, He warns followers to not be hypocrites and He insults some Pharisees by calling them such. “Hypocrite” references stage actors who wear masks. Like clowns today, actors then wore masks with exaggerated smiles or scowls so that the entire audience could see their disposition and, because men played women’s roles, masks were necessary for the show to go on. Jesus’ denouncement of hypocrites as actors/mask-wearers is essentially a challenge for us to be ourselves. Even though the show must go on during Covid, a deeper spiritual unmasking should prevail that encourages authenticity, like that echoed in one of Shakespeare’s most famous theater show lines: “To thine own self be true.”
Father George Aschenbrenner, S.J. promoted spiritual authenticity by distinguishing three dimensions of every person: the core of our being, the skin of our soul, and the exterior interactions of our lives. The core of our being defines “Who I Am” more than any other reality. It is the place where each of us is alone (yet alone with God because this is where the fire of God’s grace resides). Outside of it, on the skin of the soul, is the place where our affectivity, thought, emotion, and spontaneity exist. This is the place that gives evidence to “What I Feel,” the threshold between our true self and our revealed self. Further out is the exterior persona where our values, attitudes and impulses are made known by our behaviors, actions, and words. This is the place that shows “What I Do,” the place where we interact and our identity is defined. Those among us who are most authentic and true to our creation have a strong alignment from Who I Am…to What I Feel…to What I Do. There is no hypocrisy in them from the hidden interior to the exposed exterior; they are authentically themselves.
We, too, should strive for a more perfect alignment from the inside-out. If we do, even in this time of wearing physical masks, we can engage in a spiritual unmasking so that we can face ourselves, face one another, and face our God in true, authentic ways. In spite of the mask on your face, keep revealing your beauty, your truth, and your goodness; they exist at the core of your being where the fire of God’s love resides and, from there, they desire to show themselves to the world.