7th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, Year I

A few weeks ago we recalled how Adam and Eve somehow convinced themselves they’d not get “caught,” yet right after they ate of the fruit they hid at the first sign of God. Did it work? Sirach in today’s First Reading reminds us that God sees everything and he is the only one on which we can rely. If we convince ourselves that money, power, or cleverness will enable us to get away with whatever we want, Sirach reminds us today that the Lord watches over us as closely (and more) as a loving Father, and a loving father rewards or punishes accordingly. Sometimes we see him as a police officer, an authority against which we want to prove our autonomy, but in the end, he only wants the best for us.

Sirach also reminds us that God ultimately decides when to be merciful, so we must not abuse of his mercy. When you knowingly sin, for example, but tell yourself, “I’ll just go to confession afterwards,” you are abusing of God’s mercy. In early Christianity some notorious pagans, including the emperor Constantine, put off their Baptism until their deathbed so that they could “enjoy” themselves before taking on the demanding commitments of being a Christian. If Constantine had been instantly killed in battle or an accident, his opportunity for mercy would have died with him. If we live as if we’ll be held accountable for what we do, we’ll treat ourselves and others better.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us of the merit of even a small act of kindness, and also the need to be radical to avoid a life of sin and its consequences. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to tweak our consciences whenever we think we can get away with something.

Readings: Sirach 5:1–8; Psalm 1:1–4, 6; Mark 9:41–50. See also 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.