26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ … will surely not lose his reward.”

This morning’s Gospel passage very clearly reminds us that our actions here on earth have eternal consequences.  If we follow God’s Law and act with charity, we will be rewarded in the life of the world to come.  If we lead others into sin, we will not fare so well (to say the least).  There is, of course, always room for repentance.

In this life, we are constantly faced with choices: we can choose to follow God or we can choose to sin.  In this world we will never be entirely free from temptations.  Ever since the Fall of Adam and Eve, human beings have had to struggle against their fallen human nature.  Our fallen nature is weak, it is inclined towards sin; and yet sin can never make us truly happy.

Because of our fallen state, God’s Commandments and the Church’s precepts (or laws) can, at times, seem like a cage: mere restrictions.  That is not what the Law was intended to be, however.  The Lord gave the Law to us in order that we may be set free.  This truth may sound backwards to our modern ears.  We live in a culture that thinks that true freedom means being able to do anything, anytime, anywhere.  This is a false notion of freedom.

The Jewish Faith understands the Law very differently.  Our Responsorial Psalm today says that: “The precepts [or laws] of the Lord give JOY to the heart.”  When we think of ‘law’ the idea of ‘joy’ does probably not immediate come to mind.  The Law isn’t meant to enslave it is meant to set free; it is meant to set us free from sin, free from death, free from being slaves to our passions and from the misery that comes from sin.

The Israelites rejoiced that they had received the Law from God on Mount Sinai.  God had not revealed Himself to any other nation like He revealed Himself to the Jews in the Old Testament.  The pagans did not know the Lord.  The Lord revealed Himself to the Israelites and He gave them His Law on Mount Sinai.  Why did He give them the Law?  So that they could know how God wanted them to live and they could follow God’s Law and be blessed by Him.

We were made to know and love God, but sin keeps us from fulfilling that for which we were made.  God’s Law acts as a guide for us to know how to live as we were intended to live from the beginning.  We need the Law because our fallen human nature and is inclined towards sin.  We also need God’s grace in order to overcome our weak nature.

In the fullness of time, Jesus Christ became a man and died in order to save us from sin and death.  Jesus fully reveals God to us and shows us the way to Heaven.  When He was asked which Commandment was the most important, He summed up all the Commandments in two sentences: Love the Lord your God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.  It is important to know and observe the Commandments; when Jesus summed up the Commandments in those two sentences He did not abolish the Law.  What He meant was that if every one truly loved God with all their heart, and their neighbor as their self we wouldn’t need the Commandments.  We wouldn’t need a Commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy, if we all loved God.  We would come to Church because we love God, not just because we are required to do so.

If everyone really loved their neighbor as their self, we wouldn’t need a Commandment to honor our father and mother; we wouldn’t need a Commandment to not bear false witness; we wouldn’t need a Commandment against killing.  We would never do those things.  If sin did not exist, we would not need to be told to treat others, as we would want them to treat us.  It is because sin makes us selfish and prideful that we need Commandments.

The reality is that we are all sinners.  We all have to struggle against pride, envy, jealously, and all kinds of temptations.  We also have to make an effort to fulfill the purpose for which we were made: we have to work at loving God with our whole heart; we have to work at loving our neighbors as ourselves.

This week we are having the annual ministries fair.  There are tables set up representing the various ministries here in our parish.  There will be people at the tables who are knowledgeable about the various ministries and they are there to help you find ways to reach out towards others.  I encourage all of you to consider taking a look after Mass.  We are called to live out our Catholic Faith in charity.  Reaching out in charity toward others not only helps them, it helps build up the Church and it gains for you an eternal reward in Heaven.

Lord Jesus, help us to have open ears that we may listen to Your call and open hearts that we may be willing to do whatever You call us to do.  Amen.

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