Mass Reading & Meditation for May 23, 2013
Meditation: Sirach 5:1-8
7th Week in Ordinary Time
“Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin.” (Sirach 5:5)
“Surely the Lord understands.” How often have you thought this way about a temptation you were dealing with? “God is compassionate. He knows how hard it is for me to overcome this sin. I shouldn’t be so tough on myself.” While there may be some truth to statements like these, today’s first reading offers a necessary balance. And while it is a classic example of dramatic overstatement, today’s Gospel reading strengthens Sirach’s words: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off” (Mark 9:43).
Both of today’s readings tell us that sin is serious and that God takes it seriously. Yes, he is our loving, merciful Father. But we shouldn’t let this truth reduce our image of God to some kind of jovial, easygoing caretaker. Like any good father, he has high expectations of his children. He knows our weaknesses, but he also expects us to try our hardest to overcome them. He expects us to work with him as he seeks to conform us to the image of his Son.
We all have difficult areas of our lives. Maybe you have a bad temper. Or maybe you find it hard not to be critical of certain types of people. What is your disposition toward those challenges? If you are seriously trying to work on them, if you are regularly confessing them when you fall, and if you are actively seeking God’s grace to overcome them, then you can be one-hundred percent confident of God’s mercy. If, on the other hand, you have a casual attitude about sin, if you dismiss it as “no big deal,” then something needs to change.
Today’s readings ask us to examine our attitudes, both toward sin and toward God’s mercy. Do you take God for granted? Do you tend to gloss over your sins? Jesus doesn’t really want you to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye. But he does want you to stop grasping at temptation, and he does want you to shield your eyes from sinful things. His mercy is meant to help you do just that—not simply to pardon your faults.
“Lord, may I never presume upon your mercy. Help me to root out anything that is not pleasing to you.”
Psalm 1:1-4, 6; Mark 9:41-50