This reflection was taken from the Daily Mass Readings of Jan. 9, 2014:
Today’s first reading is incredible.
“If anyone says ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” Two of the main necessities to overcome this problem are forgiveness and humility.
All who consider themselves Christians claim to love God. But we cannot truly love God if we can’t do what he asks of us. The second part of the Great Commandment (second to “Love the Lord your God above all things”) is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Yet, many of us “Christians” (sometimes including this one) can’t even bring ourselves to forgive our neighbors.
God is all about forgiveness. That’s why he came and suffered through his Passion for us. That is love. It is not love for God or man, however, when we refuse to forgive our neighbors. How hypocritical is it, to say that we “love” God, when we hold so many grudges with his other creations? Look at his infinite, unconditional love. What do we do to return that love? Do we appreciate it? Or do we ignore it, and instead choose to satisfy our own twisted wills, holding on to whatever injustices we believe we have received? How can we be so heartless? All that he has given us, all that he has done for us–and we can’t even bring ourselves to do what he asks, what he begs of us.
We must have it so hard. Yeah, that’s right. He was only scourged for us. He was only crucified for us. He was only killed for our transgressions. That must be so much easier than following a few simple Commandments.
What did Jesus gain out of that? He is God. He could have been just as happy if he had let us die for our sins. He is happiness. He didn’t die–painfully–to please himself; he died to please us. We’re the only ones who get anything worthwhile out of the “deal.” All he asks us to do is to follow his rules. They’re not that hard. And it’s not like we’re going to suffer for them. We follow them, and we make out even more–we get eternal salvation. How does God benefit from it? He doesn’t, because he doesn’t have to love us. He does love us–deeply–but we aren’t a necessary part of his existence.
The only reason he asks us to do certain things is because he knows it’s best for us. He doesn’t do it for himself. If he was his main concern, he wouldn’t have made us–or given us free will–in the first place.
Back to today’s reading. I said we needed humility. Thinking about what I’ve said in the past few paragraphs can help with that, but it’s not enough. When we get angry with our neighbors for their sins and transgressions, we ought to stop and think about our own. And not just what we’ve done to them, our neighbors; what we’ve done to God. It’s not a matter of getting even with what others have done to us; if it were, then how would we be doing against God? He would be torturing us for all that we’ve done against his will. But he isn’t like that. He’s not spiteful, or hateful, just because we did something he didn’t like. If we are willing to repent of our sins, he is more than willing to forgive us.
God alone can know when people repent. We can’t. That’s why we always need to be ready to forgive others. Now God, being perfect, has every right to punish us and be angry with us if he chooses. That doesn’t mean he will, but he has that right. We, on the other hand, have sinned–just like the people whom we hate, the ones that we think we “can’t” forgive. It wasn’t just them who hung Christ up on that Cross; it was us. We are responsible for his blameless suffering, right alongside our neighbors. It doesn’t matter how much bigger or smaller their sins are than ours. The point is that we’re all sinners, and it was sin as a whole which made Christ die in order to pay a just price for us. Not just the sins of our enemies.
Furthermore, we sin against God yet again when we fail to forgive our enemies. We just have to accept the fact that we’re no better or worthier than them; we’re all God’s creations, and we’ve all failed him. How much we’ve failed him, and how much we’ve failed each other, is irrelevant. God is willing to forgive all; and if we truly wish to be his followers, then we must be willing to do the same.
Now please don’t think that I’m saying that sin is permissible. I’m not saying we should be okay with it when others sin. Accepting and permitting sin–one of the worst things that today’s society is guilty of–only leads to more sin. The key is to love the sinner, while hating the sin. That can be tricky. Many sinners are more than willing to tell those who attempt to correct them that they (the “correctors”) are being hateful, merely because they are telling them something which disagrees with their way of life. Some of the biggest examples of this–examples of mortal sins considered “acceptable” in contemporary society–are abortion, homosexuality, and various types of adultery. We are all sinners, so we–according to God’s will–obviously should love those who commit the sins–we should love them as we love ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we should love and accept their sins. It doesn’t mean we should let them go on sinning. If we really love them, then we must try to help them. If we can’t help them, and they can’t genuinely repent, then they will–out of justice–have to pay for such grave sins in the fires of Hell. Allowing our neighbors to go down a path which will lead them to a place like that is not showing love for them.
If someone was going to commit suicide, and you had the ability to attempt to stop them, what would you do? Would you sit by and watch? Would you try and save them, or talk them out of it? Or would you tell them to go ahead, because they thought it would make themselves feel better? Obviously, the only reason they would be doing it would be because they thought it would make them happier, by “ending it all.” And obviously, anyone in their right mind would try everything they could to stop the suicidal person before they could take their own life–and most likely end up going to Hell anyway. Another obvious factor–the suicidal person would not be thinking about spending eternity in Hell, when they decided that killing themselves was the most pleasant alternative left to them.
The same goes for those committing the sins I mentioned above. These poor people haven’t the slightest idea of what they’re dooming themselves to. They are doing what they think will make them feel best in this life, while giving no regard whatsoever to the next.
And the same goes for all who see fit to encourage such sins–which in itself makes them some of the worst sinners of all. If they really cared about these so-called “friends” of theirs, or if they really cared about the “freedom” of others, then they would think about these friends’ eternities, and they would think about the prospect of eternal freedom as opposed to eternal damnation. They embrace these sinners, pat them on the backs, and send them to their deaths, often without even realizing it.
However, there are also the people who encourage sin out of self-love. They know that the things mentioned above are sins, but they go along with them–or are indifferent to them–just so they won’t have the inconvenience of arguing with those who disagree. Those who have such a selfish mindset–especially those who go so far as to lie and say they do agree with such sinful principles–are going to have far greater inconveniences when they stand before the Judgment Seat.
Another important aspect I almost forgot about: Just what the people who encourage/ignore such sinners will get to experience when they meet the Lord. I have very little doubt in my mind that the people who encourage the gays and the abortionists and the unmarried couples to indulge themselves, will get to know the true and unrelenting misery of those who they urged onward. They will likely not just see, but feel the result of what they’ve done to those poor sinners. They will understand just how badly they’ve betrayed the ones who they called their “friends.”
“And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.” If we have faith in our Lord, and we truly believe in that faith, then nothing can overcome us. If we really love our Lord, the shepherd who is so willing to lay down his life for his sheep, then we must try to the very best of our ability to further his holy will. For the love of our Lord, and the love of our neighbors–if we have any at all–then we must stand up for God’s Truth, always and everywhere. We must spread Christ’s love to our fellow sinners, and help them to understand it, if we wish for them to be saved.
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy Will be done,
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us, this day,
Our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
It is far more than a simple prayer. Study it. Ponder its lines. It is a way of life.
by Cameron Daly