26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

     Do you believe that God loves you? For as hard as it may be to comprehend that the God of the universe, the one who created the world and has dominion over us would love us, there is no other option for “God is love”.[1] God didn’t have to create us. In fact He gained nothing by creating us, but He did so simply out of love. If that’s not enough to prove His love then all we need to do is look at the cross and realize He sent His only Son into the world to die for us. If that’s not convincing I don’t know what can be.

     While a nice thought, God’s love for us also has consequences for how we should live our life. For you see when we realize that God loves us, then we realize that He only wants what is best for us. Since God is our creator He knows perfectly what is best for us. Thus anytime we fall into sin we not only offend God, we harm ourselves. After all “God is only offended by us when we act against our own good.”[2] Like any good parent, God our Father has put into place certain Commandments and moral norms, not to hold us back, but rather to keep us from harming ourselves.

     Remember that in the beginning, God’s plan was for each of us to spend eternity with Him forever in heaven. Yet because God loves us He has to give us a choice, after all love cannot be forced. Love demands that we freely choose to love the other and we all know that “love does not exist in words or feelings but in deeds”[3] We can do everything to love someone, but they have to receive our love and reciprocate. Forced love it not love it is slavery. Jesus doesn’t call us His slaves, rather He calls us His friends and extends His love to us waiting for us to love Him in return. “That same love that demands freedom to exercise itself also seeks the curbs to limit it.”[4] True love then “always imposes restrictions on itself – for the sake of others.”[5]

     This is why in today’s Gospel Jesus tells us if our had causes us to sin we should cut it off or if our eye causes us to sin we should pluck it out. Of course Jesus is not speaking literally here. Rather he is using a common technique of his time and speaking in hyperbole, or in an exaggerated way to make his point. In using this exaggeration He makes His point very clear. We should avoid anything that leads us to commit sin. We should impose restrictions on ourselves to keep us from harming ourselves.

     So often we are very good about stopping to examine our conscience and see what our sins our, but today’s Gospel challenges us to go a step further and reflect on our lives to see what leads us in the wrong direction. To acknowledge our sins and then reflect to see what situations in our lives lead us to commit those sins.

     The famous Chinese general and war strategist, Sun Tzu, living 500 years before Christ said “attack is the secret of defense; defense is the planning of an attack.”[6] The best defense is a good offense. We need to go on the attack and root out those things in our life that cause us to sin.  What are the near occasions of sin for you? What are those things that often lead to sin in your life and how will you cut them out of your life?

     Friends, there is only one thing in the whole created world that God hates and that is sin. As his children, as the ones whom He loves, we are called to do everything in our power to avoid sin even if that requires great personal sacrifice. No sacrifice is too great if its protects us from hurting God and ourselves. Jesus calls us to stop at nothing to protect our relationship with our heavenly Father and to suffer anything for our own good. “Love casts out fear”[7] so then let us make those sacrifices we need to make to return love back to our heavenly father and trust that our sacrifices will lead to greater freedom in the life and the fulfillment of love in the life to come.

[1] 1 John 4:16

[2] Summa Contra Gentiles 3.122

[3] St. Faustina Kowalska. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge:Marian Press. (2011) Pg. 175.

[4] Fulton Sheen. The World’s First Love Mary, Mother of God. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 26

[5] Fulton Sheen. The World’s First Love Mary, Mother of God. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 29

[6] Sun Tzu The Art of War, Part III.

[7] St. Faustina Kowalska. Diary of Saint Maria Faustina  Kowalska. Stockbridge: Marian Press. (2011) Pg. 248.

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