26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 27th 2015.
Nm 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43,45,47-48
Living without regrets
A teenage boy in Manila commits suicide because he got dumped by his girlfriend. He left a note telling loved ones that he could not live without her. A married man in a Nigerian city abandons his wife and family of over 30 years of marriage and moves in with his lover. Why? He says he could not live without his lover. A homeless man on the street of Boston chooses to live in the park because the homeless shelter down the street requires him to be clean of drugs and alcohol. Why choose to live on the streets? He says that he could not live without the drugs and alcohol. A young man in California rejects a call to religious life because he cannot think of leaving his family and city of birth. These are cases of encounter with that expression, “I cannot live without this or that person, thing, pleasure, etc.?”
It is true that, in a relative sense, we do need other people, things and pleasures in this life. But we open ourselves up to painful regrets when we make this absolute and let it shape our attitude to life i.e. when we begin to live out of the notion that there is a person, thing, pleasure that we cannot live without in this life. The truth is that there is no single person, group, or thing that we cannot live without but we cannot live without God. This is so because at every moment of our lives, God is loving us in an active way and communicating existence to us and inviting us to deeper friendship with Him irrespective of the past pains or present woes. The moment that we begin to realize God’s constant love in action towards us and begin to respond to this love in action too, we begin to grasp more fully the truth that indeed there is no person or thing that we cannot live without but we just cannot live without God.
In today’s Gospel passage, John tries to prevent a man from driving out demons in the name of Jesus. Jesus asks him to let the man be because “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” In other words, God is acting in the life of this man and he is responding to the best of his ability even if he does not follow in the camp of the chosen disciples.
In a similar note, today’s First Reading shows us God acting in the life of the two men, Eldad and Medad, though they are not in the gathering of the seventy elders with Moses but had been left in the camp. The same spirit that filled the faithful Moses and the seventy elders filled the hearts and minds of these two men who unexplainably chose to remain in the camp and they responded by prophesying in the camp in response to the gift of the spirit that they had received.
On the other hand, Jesus also warns of grave regrets that await us when we fail to realize His continuous love in action and the need to respond in action too. Because of God’s constant action in each person and the need to respond, Jesus takes the relationship of every single one of us with Him so seriously that we will greatly regret our scandalous actions, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” This is how much Jesus values His relationship with each and every one of us.
Jesus’ exhortation to cut off our hands and feet or pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin is to reinforce the point that sin is more than a breaking of Commandments but it is a rejection of divine love and a refusal to make any positive response to this love in action. Our hands, feet and eyes represent things that are so close to us, things that are so much a part of our being, things that we are so used to, things that we are so dependent upon and naturally attached to. Yet, the truth is that we can indeed live without these things and we should rather sacrifice them than let them hinder our relationship with God. Failure to realize this truth and to act on it is the source of eternal regret for us. “Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
St. James echoes the same warning to the rich Christians in Jerusalem who have received material blessings from God in abundance (wealth, clothes, gold and silver) but who have not shown any response in love to God or to their neighbors. They have said to themselves that they cannot live without “luxury and pleasure” to the point that they even defraud, condemn and murder the workers, “Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” They will surely live a life of regrets for this wickedness to their neighbors and lack of response to God’s love in concrete action, “Come now you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we living today in regrets? Do we realize first of all God’s ever present and active love for us at each and every moment? How convinced are we of God’s great concern for our relationship with Him at every moment of our lives? Are we open to an honest encounter with this love for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where our sins are wiped away by the blood of Jesus and a deeper awareness of divine love floods our souls? Are we open to this divine love by receiving His words to us in faith and letting these words shape our actions so that we respond appropriately to His love? Do we let teachings of the Church shape our moral response to God’s love in this age of moral relativism? It is our faith in this divine love for each and every one of us and our personal response in action to it that fills our hearts with that conviction that there is nothing or no person that we cannot live without but we cannot live without God. In turn this truth is what delivers us from all regrets.
The God who loves us so much is with us and He never ceases to act so as to give us life. Jesus Himself who died for us and rose from the dead has won for us the grace also to respond to this divine love. In this Eucharistic sacrifice, Jesus perpetuates His loving action to us in the words of consecration, “This is my body… This is my blood given up for you so that sins may be forgiven.” Divine love in action never ceases to draw us to Himself no matter the pains of the present or the sins of the past. It is not His will that we live in regret in this life or in the life to come, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,… It is not the will of my heavenly father that one of these be lost(Jn 10:10; Mt 18:14) With the grace and love of this sacrament, let us strive to respond to divine love in action that is in accordance with His will and we will have the truth that sets us free from all regrets – the truth that there is no thing or person that we cannot live with but we just cannot live without God.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!