What we think, say, do or do not do, has consequences for ourselves and others. The smallest act of kindness, like suggesting, as Jesus did in today’s Gospel, of giving someone a drink of water goes a long way. That may seem like a small and insignificant gesture, but according to Water.org, 844 million people do not have access to safe drinking water. That is equivalent to one out of every nine people on earth not having ready access to a drink of clean water. Women and girls are especially affected as they can spend up to six hours a day seeking and returning home with water.
The reality that there are people who do not have access to just the basic needs of survival is a major problem. The most serious of sins in this regard is not bothering to care. Jesus shared clearly, as is recorded in Matthew (cf. chapter 25), that what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him. As he shared with Saul on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9), Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Jesus did not ask why Saul was persecuting his followers, because, in persecuting his followers, Saul was persecuting him.
We just finished the Season of Easter where we celebrated how Jesus, carrying the sins of all of humanity with him, died, conquered death, and rose again to redeeming us from our enslavement to sin. Just as in Adam all would die, just as in Jesus all have the opportunity to rise again in Christ. God has created us as being interconnected with one another. What one thinks, speaks, and acts ripples out to touch all people and all creation. This is why Jesus uses such graphic, hyberbolic words in today’s Gospel, such as “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire” (Mk 9:41-50). Jesus does not literally mean that we are to cut off our hand or foot, or pluck out our eye, if we sin, but he is showing us the seriousness of our sin.
We can see the horrific affects at play in our fallen world. Life is hard, people suffer, violence and darkness abound. When we choose to shut ourselves off from others and the wonders of creation, and retreat into our own self-made world, keeping the need of others at arm’s length; when we engage in thoughts, words, and actions of personal sin; when we rationalize and justify behavior that goes against our Gospel values and our conscience, we play a part in contributing to the condition of original sin that plagues our world, and we are going against God’s plan for what we pray for in the Our Father, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Jesus is not calling us to jump out of bed today and amass heroic acts of virtue, nor is he asking us to be transformed all alone and all at once. The disciples took time to get his message and get on board, so it will take time with us. To say we are followers of Jesus though we must recognize we need a change of heart and mind today. We need to ask Jesus to transform us with his love. We need to invite the Holy Spirit to give us his courage. We are to strive for holiness, for oneness with our Loving God and Father.
May we start by slowing down enough to sit in prayer and allow Jesus to shine a light in our life, that we may better see with the eyes of our conscience, the lies, the half-truths, and apparent goods that we have been allowing to have free reign in our life. As they are revealed, may we pluck them out, even the smallest of sins, and dash them on the rock of Christ. May we ask Jesus to inspire us so that we may reach out beyond ourselves in love, to will the good of another, to strive to think, act, and speak in ways that will bring more support, encouragement, aid, love, faith, hope, and joy to our corner of the world. In our time of prayer, may we embrace the truth that Jesus loves us more than we can ever imagine, really spend time in believing and pondering that very real truth, and go into our day, doing small things with the greatness of the love we have just received.
Photo: Crucifix in the chapel at Cardinal Newman HS. May we resist the darkness and allure of sin and choose to be children of the light.
Link for the Mass readings for Thursday, May 24, 2018: