Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

Don't mess with this
ferocious old tree!
He still has one fang that
can bite on Halloween. 
Someone asked him,
"Lord, will only a few people be saved?"
He answered them,
"Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.

Included in the Good News of our salvation is Jesus' insistence that we must strive to enter through the narrow gate. We cannot be whatever God wants of us -- let's call it human -- unless we strive for it. The effort may not be necessary twenty-four-seven; we can rest and allow ourselves to be refreshed by indolence. But even that requires a certain discipline. Some of us would rather give than receive; we feel more in control with giving and get very anxious when we're not Doing Something. And others would rather receive than give, they're lazy.
The Letter to the Hebrews recalls the catastrophe in the Sinai Desert, when the Lord grew weary of his people because they took him for granted. The Author cites Psalm 95: "I swore in my anger, they shall not enter into my rest." He goes on to say, 
...a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God. And whoever enters into God’s rest, rests from his own works as God did from his. Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience. 
Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
Many people prefer their own notion of life's ending: heaven is a grand vacation where the just will get anything and everything they want, and the unjust will also find welcome. They also like to think the passage from here to there -- once the soul has deserted the body -- will be simple and pleasant. The religious book racks are full of such pap. "Heaven is real!" we are assured by little boys and neurosurgeons. 

Traditionally the Church calls those experiences "private revelation." We take them with a large grain of salt. Most private revelation is irrelevant and harmless. It's usually banal. But when it dissuades us from doing what is necessary like repenting and atoning for our sins, private revelation is dangerous. And unscriptural.

Each day we should rise to the challenge. How will I strive to enter that rest today? Perhaps it's with time spent in reassuring prayer. Or a quiet walk in the sunshine. But it will more often be attending to the duties and the chores God has chosen for us. 

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

It is like yeast that a woman took
and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch of dough was leavened." 

Christians generously believe our mission is to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony with the saints and angels, around the Lord Jesus Christ, to the Glory of God the Father. Why not? What could be better than that? Did he not send us to all the nations to make them disciples? 

Sometimes, in our desperate efforts to fulfill this command we become overbearing, and our zeal is counter-productive. I am told some Native Americans in the southwest United States bitterly remember the harsh treatment of the Franciscans who catechized them four centuries ago. 

Sometimes too, when we realize that our neighbors -- who may be Jewish or Muslim, atheist or pagan, Catholic or Protestant -- are not getting our message, we become very discouraged. 
And when we add to that realization remorse either for our lackluster piety or for our aggressive proselytizing, we're crushed with sorrow. 

It is good to hear Jesus' reassurance: the Church may be no larger than a mustard seed and no more visible than microscopic spores of yeast, but it will make a huge difference. 

The punishing hand of God against the world is stayed by our daily prayers. Even ten good persons might have saved Sodom and Gomorrah. We are a blessing to our neighbors, and a saving remedy, even if they don't know it. 
But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2: 9)

Monday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

There's a fungus
among us
Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you,
as is fitting among holy ones,
no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place,

but instead, thanksgiving.

Saint Francis unintentionally made a name for himself by  confessing his sins to the friars who came to live with him, to the crowds who listened to him, and to anyone who happened along the way. He was often chastened by the Holy Spirit as he turned away from a foolish youth to become a saint. Rather than hide his shame, guilt and grief he exposed his sin to everyone as a way of atonement. 

I remember his good example as I consider my own foolish youth and my habitual sins, having outlived Saint Francis by more than twenty years. 

Saint Paul's admonition, which we hear in today's reading from Ephesians, smites between the eyes. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you...

And his reasoning also smacks me upside the head: 
So do not be associated with them.For you were once darkness,but now you are light in the Lord.Live as children of light.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was in formation for the Franciscan Order and the priesthood, my classmates and I did not want to be regarded as set apart. We interpreted the Spirit of Vatican II as more congenial to the world around us: "We're all in this together; our goals are not dissimilar." Despite our daily prayers and a generally better class of associates, our conversation -- and mine in particular -- was often crude. I supposed the fusty old rules against cussing and swearing were out-dated. To be hip and to prove I was just a regular guy I often behaved worse than the hip people around me. I did not hesitate to see the movies and read the novels that sensible Catholics avoid. 

The habits formed in those early years have not dissolved with the passage of time. 
And so Saint Paul's admonition, that such things should not even be mentioned among you, nails me to the wall. 

But I have been blessed. The Good Lord gave me a lot more time to repent than he gave to Saint Francis, Saint Anthony or Saint Clare. And I need at least that much and more. 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Marsh-friendly trees amid
the reeds
The LORD has delivered his people,the remnant of Israel.Behold, I will bring them backfrom the land of the north;I will gather them from the ends of the world,with the blind and the lame in their midst,the mothers and those with child;they shall return as an immense throng.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1932 says: 

The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

Christians in the United States today find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. We can no longer entertain the notion that the US is a Christian nation. It never claimed to be; there is no such statement in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or any of its amendments. But many of us grew up thinking it is or should be Christian, and it should therefore do the right thing for the needy.

Besides, even if we're not a Christian nation, we should do the right thing for the poor and needy. Isn't that what any good, intelligent human being would do, regardless of his religion?

No. Not really, though the Abrahamic religions (Jews, Christians and Muslims) honor that tradition. And other major religions -- Buddhists, Hindhus, etc -- have similar beliefs. Some studies show that today's youth think caring for the needy -- both thchronically poor and those afflicted by unforeseen catastrophe -- is a good thing to do; but it's not necessary. They feel no particular obligation to do so. They do not imagine compassionate God to enforce that law, nor any other Duty to make it happen. But if alms-giving makes you feel good, go for it!

If the majority of Americans feel no obligation to charity, Christians must come away from there:
Therefore, come forth from them and be separate,” says the Lord,“and touch nothing unclean,then I will receive you. 2 Corinthians 6: 17 
In today's Gospel, Jesus opens the eyes of the blind Bartimaeus who immediately forgets the only thing he ever owned -- a cloak -- and comes forth from them. 

Eyesight in this gospel is more than ordinary vision. It is wisdom, the ability to see the truth of God's kingdom in our world. Bartimaeus suddenly sees what the seeing cannot see, and he uses his healed eyes for their original purpose -- to follow Jesus. In fact that is what Jesus does for his disciples. Now that we can see we can act so much better than those around us who are blind to justice, mercy and righteousness.

As the national election approaches, with its focus on The Economy, we remember God's preference for the poor and vote for those candidates who prefer the poor and the needy, even at our expense.

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Bent, bowed, but unbroken,
this tree lives and reaches for the sky. 

Therefore, it says: 
He ascended on high and took prisoners captive; 
he gave gifts to men. 
What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended
into the lower regions of the earth? 
The one who descended is also the one who ascended 
far above all the heavens, 
that he might fill all things. 

Recently a fellow in the Knights of Columbus asked me about a phrase in the Apostles Creed. He and his group have taken up the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI to study and pray with the Creeds. 

"What does "descended into hell" mean?" he asked. "Jesus didn't really go to hell, did he?" 
This was not the best moment for an extensive lecture on hermaneutics and the history of interpretation, but I assured him the phrase and the Creed are very ancient and deeply respected. I even whipped out my handy smart phone and Googled images of the "Harrowing of Hell." 

The tradition celebrates the impunity of Jesus who could stroll into Hell as if he is God of the Universe -- which he is -- and pick out those he claims as his own -- Adam, Eve, Abel, Methuselah, etc -- and deliver them into heaven. And Satan, who until this time has ruled over Hell and controlled much of the Universe, must suffer the humiliation. 

The medieval scholars also supposed that, until the Resurrection of Jesus, all the dead were in Hell, including even the greatest men and women: Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Deborah, Ruth, David and Judith. So Jesus had his work cut out for him on that Holy Saturday when he descended into hell. He had a lot of people to redeem. 

More recent scholars, as recent as Blessed John Duns Scotus of the 13th century, taught that there was a prevenient grace which fell upon God's chosen ones even before the Birth of Jesus. First among them was Mary, who was given the grace of the Immaculate Conception. She was redeemed from sin by the Sacrifice of Jesus although Jesus was not yet born -- preveniently. 

If I were called upon to explain the descent into hell, I would suggest that Jesus, by his horrible agony and death on the cross, descended to the very worse experience of human life. His suffering was physical, emotional and spiritual. He endured not only the shattering pain in his body, but also the betrayal of Judas, denial of Peter, desertion of his disciples, hatred of his coreligionists (the Jews), contempt of Roman soldiers and sneers of passers-by. There was no one to help. 

Lifted only by his nails and distended by earth's gravitation, he was welcomed by neither heaven or earth. It seemed he belonged nowhere. Not even God would help him when he cried out. (Jewish survivors of the Shoah describe a similar abandonment. The Allies suspected something terrible was happening but did not undertake the Second World War to liberate God's Chosen People.) 

He descended into hell is a mysterious phrase. Apparently its origin is here in Ephesians 4:9,
"What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower [regions] of the earth?"
I think this verse could bear either interpretation. It reassured the medieval church that God's mercy extends well beyond the limits of Jesus' life, both before and after; and it reassures the modern skeptic who wants to know if God knows what human beings suffer. He has indeed descended into hell -- for our sake.  

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate,
make an effort to settle the matter on the way;
otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge…

I believe the expression is, “settle out of court.” It’s quicker, simpler, less expensive and less painful than dragging a complaint all the way through the system – and the settlement is generally more satisfying.
Boardwalk into the woods
over marshy soil
In today’s gospel, as he often does in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus advises his people to use a little common sense – something which is often in short supply among his starry-eyed disciples. They’re likely to suppose that “Right makes Might!” and “We should fight on because our cause is just!”
Wisdom suggests, “Choose your battles.” Not every right will be won, not every justice is worth fighting for. As long as we live in this world there will be injustice and unfairness. That “peace which the world cannot give” does not come to those who are continually mounting jaded nags, donning barbers’ bowls, arming themselves with broken lances and riding off to do battle with windmills.
Rather, as Saint Paul says in today’s first reading, there are many times when we should
bear with one another through love, and strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
A drought stricken marsh in early September
…that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
From the many dreary places where he found himself – prisons, jails, stocks, shipwrecks, cold, wet, lonely and so forth -- Saint Paul had a vision of such splendor he could barely contain his happiness. He shared it with his friends through his letters and conversations and especially in the “Breaking of Bread.”
We can call it a vision but it was not an apparition. It was more an intuition of Something Beautiful and Delightful and So Close he could almost touch it. He used words like breadth and length and height and depth, and expressions like "love surpassing knowledge" and "fullness of God" to describe it. Today we might speak of unconditional love and bliss. Paul's sensitive soul, disciplined by harsh circumstances but never jaded, was animated and enthused by that ever present reality. He lived continually within it.
We, his disciples, might not share the same experience. We have not been blessed in that way. But we hear his blessing for us and we tell the story. We are encouraged by it because we believe in him. Saints do that for us; they inspire us with conviction, zeal and fearlessness. Though they see clearly and we can only see them, we follow them; relying on their prayers, teaching and example for direction and inspiration.
Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time

You have heard of the stewardship of God's grace 
that was given to me for your benefit, 
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation, 
as I have written briefly earlier. 
When you read this 
you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ… 

Faithful readers will, by now, know I am fascinated by the word mystery. I pounce upon it every time it turns up in our scriptures or the liturgy. There is something here of inestimable value. We should not only recognize it; we should seek access to it. If Jesus never mentioned the word, it may be because he spoke no Greek. Saint Paul, however, recognized the mysterious quality of Jesus and this new religion and used his Greek language skills, along with his Hebrew training, to introduce Jesus to the world. 

Saint Paul was the first to admit he had not come to this mystery by the power of his mind; it was revealed to him. The mystery of Jesus is not available to human wisdom. We find it through faith. Or, to put it another way, we find it through careful attendance to the prayers, rites and liturgies of the Church. Being a good person is not enough, nor is being a member of the church society. Disciples must enter through their own self-consciousness, realizing that God speaks to each one of us, as well as to all of us together. Without the experience of being noticed, known and called by God, our prayers seem like so much mumbo jumbo or hocus pocus. 

That’s how Paul thought of Christianity -- as so much mumbo-jumbo -- until the Lord spoke to him on the road to Damascus. Once he heard that infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering Voice call him by name not once but twice – “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” – he could not ignore the mystery of faith that opened before him. He had to step through it. 

With this letter to the Ephesians Paul once again invites us to go with him. He cannot explain the mystery; that is neither possible nor desirable. Mysteries are apprehensible but not comprehensible to the human being. Or, to put it another way, when they appear we feel apprehended and we know that Something has stopped us dead in our tracks. 

The ancient Greeks from Sophocles onward knew that human beings cannot grasp or control knowledge. The attempt is pure hubris. When Oedipus the King attempted to find out who he was and what was going on around him, he set off a chain of events that gouged his eyes out and killed his queen/wife/mother. Likewise, Jason (of Argonaut fame) disdained reverence for the dead and was murdered for his hubris. 

Reverence cherishes the mysteries of religion and children; of marriage, child-bearing and sexuality; of sickness and death; of ignorance, poverty and helplessness. Reverence understands that we will never know or comprehend much of life, and that our stockpile of facts is little more than a Tower of Babel before the incomprehensible wisdom of God. Even now the data we’re collecting in “the cloud” threatens to overwhelm all of our systems. Technicians will “mine” the data for knowledge but the odds are good they’ll emerge stunned and perplexed with conflicted confusion. 

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a Luddite. Science is good; technology is beautiful. When these human endeavors are driven by compassion and channeled by humility they can serve God’s purposes. But without compassion or humility knowledge serves only to make red war yet redder

Like Saint Paul, a “steward of the mysteries,” we should welcome revelations of wisdom and knowledge with grateful, humble hearts. 

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time

You were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the Blood of Christ.

Personally, I wish everyone would share the Chalice of the Lord at Mass. I know some are alcoholic and even the touch of alcohol might send them back into their addiction. I respect that. But there are all the others who miss the symbolic importance of the Chalice.We have "become near (to one another and to God) by the Blood of Christ." We are "strangers and aliens no longer," and this mystery is too important to be taken lightly.

The Chalice reminds us of the enormous price God has paid for our salvation. No one should drink it casually or hurriedly.  Nor should anyone walk away from the opportunity to share the cup without serious thought. 

I quit drinking alcohol thirty-two years ago, but I have always drank from the Chalice because it is not wine. Our church insists upon that. It is the Blood of Christ. It has none of the emotional and historical overlays of alcohol for me. Rather, it has all the mysterious power of every scriptural reference to blood, wine and the vine -- from the murder of Abel to the Wedding Feast at Cana to the New Wine of Pentecost to the "Grapes of Wrath" in our Civil War song. Even John Steinbeck's novel and John Ford's movie appear in this mysterious ritual. It is about justice for the oppressed:
Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are banned from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
It is about our willingness to justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Of course there will always be that human aversion to meaning, our busyness that ignores the deep invitation. That Voice speaks to us in every moment of life.  But as we learn to pay attention to prayer and gestures and ritual -- perhaps aging helps, and the discipline that age demands of the formerly young -- we will become more prepared to enter the Sanctuary where we must spend eternity. 

That moment before the proffered Chalice, that bow and careful acceptance of sloshing liquid in our awkward hands, that sip and taste of the unfamiliar sweetness and that swallowing must awaken our sense of God's passion for us.Perhaps, as they approach the altar, the elderly among us will remember those ancient words,
Introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. 
will go to the altar of God; to God who is the joy of my youth. 
And they will speak to our children of sacred substance.

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Stone age seating
Take care to guard against all greed, 
for though one may be rich, 
one's life does not consist of possessions.

Some unknown person who may not have enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame once said, "He who dies with the most toys wins!"

Was he serious? Probably not. But perhaps this unknown person felt the gates of hell closing around him and believed there was no escape.

The quip sounds like another popular mot, "The difference between the men and the boys is the size of their toys." I first read that remark outside a pleasure boat dealership. If it had a slightly demonic ring to it, the merchants weren't particularly concerned. They knew their target market. If either sales pitch might encounter some resistance from the consumer's angel of conscience -- the one who sits on your right shoulder -- the imp on the left shoulder would carry the day.

If you even half-believe either remark, or thousands like it, you're probably American. It's bred into us from the day we first sat on Santa Claus's lap and shyly read our hopeful list. It was further encouraged when we saw the pile of toys around the Christmas tree and checked them off, one by one, against the list.

Perhaps someone spoke to us on that Christmas morning and reminded us that the reason for the season is not actually the gifts of the magi, but the Gift to the magi, an Infant in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And perhaps we forgot for a moment the toys and worshiped the Child.

This is a hard message to learn: I am not what I own. Nor, for that matter, am I what I control, or what I think. I am not the responsibilities I manage nor the diplomas on my wall. Nor am I a list books I have read, places I have been or friends I claim. I am not even the reflection in my mirror.

Saint Francis taught his friars to live sine proprio. It's translated as "without property" but he meant far more than that. Francis would not count the disciples who flocked to him, the experts who consulted him or the crowds who heard him speak. He disowned even the ecstatic moments which God gave to him, and carefully hid his debilitating stigmata.

He wanted nothing, which is the Emptiness of God, who is the Creator of All Things and, it follows, not a Thing. A nothing. He wanted to be emptied into Nothingness. There he hoped to find God. For that reason he demanded that his friars lay his dying, naked body on the bare earth of the ground. (He had to accept a compromise with that demand; there were women present.)

Francis wanted to die as Jesus died.

Here we are in mid-October. Christmas is coming. Can we imagine a Yuletide without greed, without possessions? Can I hope to defy the world around me, and die with nothing?

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A bee goes about his business
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, 
Jesus, the Son of God, 
let us hold fast to our confession. 
For we do not have a high priest 
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, 
but one who has similarly been tested in every way, 
yet without sin.  

Perhaps because I am a priest the Letter to the Hebrews has grown on me through the years. Although its language is mystical and its references to Melchizedek and other ancient figures are mysterious -- or perhaps because of that -- I find it more and more fascinating. 

But most of all the figure of Jesus captures my attention. He is clearly and undeniably human. He would mean nothing to us, or to the Author of Hebrews, were he not a truly human and historical figure. This Jesus of Nazareth, the child of Mary, who lived in Galilee and died in Jerusalem just a little while ago, we know as the Son of God. He has "passed through the heaven" and into the Holy of Holies which is the Very Presence of God. Is that really possible for a human being? Especially for the human creature whom we have always known as "mortal?" 

I think it would be possible to preach on the doctrine of the Incarnation every weekend for a lifetime and never come to the end of it. We'd hardly scratch the surface of it. And, if the truth be told, we do preach the Incarnation in one form or another, every weekend and every day. Any sermon that would address Christian morality or Christian doctrine and dismiss the person of Jesus cannot be Christian. 

In today's brief reading from Hebrews we remember the weakness of Jesus, and that he was "similarly... tested in every way." What use is a hero to me if he is not weak as I am weak?

Hollywood often throws invincible heroes at us. Although they are shot at, beaten, knifed, exploded and hanged by their thumbs they just keep on coming, like the Energizer Bunny. Some of them are dressed up like superheroes, some have super-human powers, and some are supposed to be ordinary flesh except that their enemies are hopelessly incompetent marksmen, martial artists, wrestlers, sluggers and biters. How is it possible that fifty-five people can shoot at you with sub-machine guns and everyone of them miss? I mean, what are the odds? And have you noticed how the Hollywood heroes always know how to operate every weapon that was ever created, even the computers? Why is it my computer never works that well? 

The Jesus whom we meet in the New Testament is not a hero of that ilk. When he is cut he bleeds, when he is beaten he bruises, and when he is crucified he dies. If he enjoys any extraordinary privilege it's when he is abused, he doesn't take it personally. He knows this is what we do to one another, and he suffers it willingly with us. 

Jesus, as the Author says, was never ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters; and when we see him vilified and crucified, we must not be ashamed to call him our God and Lord. He has carried our weakness, foolishness, guilt and shame into the very presence of God and returned with blessings. 

Saturday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,

On retreat recently, I heard the words of Saint Clare as if for the first time, “Gaze upon Him.” 
O most noble Queen, gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him.If you suffer with Him, you shall reign with Him,
if you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him;if you die with Him on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and, in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men.

I had not realized she was speaking quite literally of her own gazing on the Crucifix of San Damiano. During that same retreat I heard a lecture about that particular image; it is a visual study of the Passion narrative of Saint John, from the Last Supper to his Ascension to the right hand of God. There are all the images, including the rooster who crowed at Peter’s denial, the centurion, his Blessed Mother and Beloved Disciple, and so forth.

“Gaze upon him.” 

Two weeks later, as I waited for the Transitus of Saint Francis to begin, I found myself gazing on another image of the Crucified. My eyes moved from his feet to his face, pausing now and again to rest on his hands, his knees, the loin cloth, his ribs and chest, and back to his bowed head. 

Suddenly it made sense to me. I was not thinking about the crucified. I wasn’t even preparing a sermon, for once. But I was resting there in his presence, feeding from his wounds, drinking the blood and water that flowed from his side.

Since the Reformation and the Enlightenment, Christians have put a lot of stress on thinking, reasoning, explaining and defending the truths of our faith. Those are fine things to do. But eventually we must stop and gaze on him.

Memorial of Saint John de Brébeuf and Saint Isaac Jogues, priests and martyrs, and their companions, martyrs

Two wren houses
and a patch of daisies
form a mustachioed grin
Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness
will be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered behind closed doors
will be proclaimed on the housetops.
Wikipedia has some interesting remarks about transparency:
Transparency is a general quality. It is implemented by a set of policies, practices and procedures that allow citizens to have accessibility, usability, utility, understandability, informativeness and auditability of information and process held by centers of authority (society or organizations). Feedback mechanisms are necessary to fulfill the goal of transparency.
Transparency has been, for long, a general requirement for democratic societies. The right to be informed and to have access to the information has been an important issue on modern societies.
In the context of today’s remarks about the Pharisees, it appears they and other leading citizens were not living transparent lives. Nor were their policies and decisions open to scrutiny and criticism. But Jesus assures his disciples – who are often neglected and exploited by the powerful – that every decision made in secrecy will be exposed.
The authors of our American Constitution appreciated the importance of transparency. They wanted a free press to ferret out the backroom deals and clandestine cabals in government. But even with those first amendment guarantees, leaders and led struggle with openness. There are always people who suspect conspiracies and there are always conspirators who attempt to hide what the public should know. The virtuous are eager to disclose the truth even when it’s embarrassing, and eager to know the truth, even when it’s both subtle and complex.
Sometimes one or the other faction gets carried away. Those who obsessively suspect conspiracies in the government inevitably overlook the real ones. While they’re crying wolf, foxes are raiding the chicken house; for example, the looting of our banks while everyone was looking for terrorists.
But conspirators can be found everywhere, not only in the military and the government but also in business, schools, churches, benevolent societies, volunteer organizations, and families. They take care of themselves first, and then their responsibilities. 
Civic virtue is always in short supply; no human system can prevent every crime and right every wrong. There are no innocents among us and we should suspect everyone, including and especially my self.
But Jesus assures us, “His eye is on the sparrow.” God sees what is happening; he will reward the just and punish the wicked. Rest assured of that.