O Lord, I trust in your merciful love. My heart will rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord who has been bountiful with me. (Psalm 13:6) Entrance Antiphon
Earlier this week, I received a call from a dear friend telling me that her elderly sister was in intensive care and that the doctors were considering a simple but serious procedure to better her condition. The older we get, the more aware we become of the life-threatening conditions we face in life.
We wish that life could be filled with just good stuff, that we didn’t have to recognize the reality of sin, sickness and death as integral to everyone’s life. What the Scripture today tells me is that while everyone faces the darkness of sin and is tempted to sin, we are not alone. Our God has overcome sin and death!
These reading from James and Mark were serious reminders that all life, especially eternal life, comes at a cost to our sinful selves. While the benefits to living a faithful and committed Christian life are well known, the actual living it day in and day out is no so easy. They are sobering readings, but they are not without hope.
Everyone who is serious about life, especially eternal life, is keenly aware that we are made in the image and likeness of God. We are aware that God is God and we are God’s creation. Our lives have a beginning and they have an end. We are born, and then, at some point in time, we die. As Job reminds us, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall go back again. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:29)
But how we want to live our lives, how we want to be remembered, is left pretty much up to us. We cannot do anything about our heritage, our parents, our country of origin and the day we were born. Those are given. But we can decide if we want to live a virtuous life or not. We do not need to be prisoners of our environment, of our age and time. We can aspire for the greater gifts, for a life virtue and a life of good deeds, even though we may need to take a road less traveled.
Is it easy to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily? Of course not. But does God give us the personal grace and the community of faith to do so? Yes, God does!
If these readings for today’s Mass were the only ones we had to live by, then we may be tempted to think that the Christian way of life is all too difficult, too hard to live. But Jesus gives us a context to these readings when he says: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41). God enables us to do the good, to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, his Son, our Crucified Lord. The beautiful words with which we began this Mass, uplifts us and sustain us in the time of temptation: “O Lord, I trust in your merciful love.” (Psalm 13:6)
Yes, our God is Kind and Merciful!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Christ the King Community in Citrus Heights, California.