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. The reality that 771 million people do not have adequate access to the most basic of needs, safe drinking water (water.org), is an amazing and saddening statistic. The most serious of sins in this regard is not bothering to care. Jesus shared clearly, in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. chapter 25), that what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him.
We have a choice to act in ways: that limit or provide access for people seeking such basic necessities as food, water, and shelter; that harm or hurt; that divide or unify. Jesus uses 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, but he is showing us the seriousness and cost of our sin in this life and the next. Whether we refuse to give or provide someone a drink has consequences.
Life is hard, people suffer. 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 that are divisive, dehumanizing, and self serving; 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. When we act in these ways, we are going against God’s plan that we pray for each day: “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Jesus is not calling us to leap out of bed today to amass heroic acts of virtue, nor is he asking us to enact massive change alone and all at once. The disciples took time to get his message and get on board, so it will take time for us as well. As followers of Jesus, we need to resist the temptations of turning in upon ourselves and of being self-centered, looking out for our own concerns alone. Instead we need to experience the truth of how Jesus loves us more than we can ever imagine. We do so when we open our hearts and minds to receive his love and share it by willing the good of each other and as we do so we will be transformed.
Photo: Jesus frees us from our suffering when we align ours with his. Crucifix at St Peter Catholic Church, Jupiter, FL.