The “First Week”: Week Nine/Session Two.
Theme: The Causes and Consequences of Sin.
Our reading for today: Matthew 25: 31-46.
I was hungry and you gave Me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was homeless and you gave Me no bed, I was shivering and you gave Me no clothes, Sick and in prison, and you never visited.
Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, “Master, what are You talking about? When did we ever see You hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?” He will answer them, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was Me—you failed to do it to Me.’ (Matthew 25: 43-45 MsgB)
When asked to recount my sin (as we are being invited to do as we go on this part of the Ignatian Adventure), I always tend to look for those sinful activities that pop up in my life; fleshly stuff that proactively leads me away from God’s perfect will.
You know the stuff I mean?
The lustful thinking, the self-centered actions, the ugly words, or the nasty deeds. All sinful activity that steals true life from me. Self-serving B.S. that feeds my flesh while starving the good work of God going on inside me.
Yet, while it’s very important for us to be on the lookout for this type of pro-active sin in our daily existence, the fact is Jesus also wants to point out a second type of mortal sin that’s much more difficult for us to see. In Matthew 25, Jesus takes off the gloves and throws a punch to all of us who tend to overlook, what the ancient church calls, the sins of omission.
Kinda reminds me of my school days when the teacher would subtract test points for not only writing the wrong answer to a question (which I so very often did!), but would also dock me on points even if I wrote no answer to the question at all! As a matter of fact, as I read Jesus’ words to the ‘goats’ here in Matthew 25, there seems to be a pretty heavy toll placed on those who know the needs around them, have the ability to meet those needs, yet fail to do just that!
In the New Testament Letter of James (4:17), the Lord’s brother declares, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
So now, before I can leave this season of recounting my sin, I must go back and not only look for my wrong answers, but also need to look for the blank spots in my life where I chose intentionally to ignore the pain and suffering of a fellow traveler in this life. Times when I saw the great need around me, had within me the ability to care and act on behalf of that need, yet turned away, preferring self over being otherly.
A closer look at this Matthew 25 passage, reveals not only my gross sins of omission, but it also makes me think that Jesus must spend a good amount of His time here on earth dwelling with those who are being overlooked or ignored. The reason I say that is because both the ‘sheep’ (the good guys who care) and the ‘goats’ (those who don’t) are greatly surprised when Jesus states that “when you did (or didn’t) do one of these things (caring for the needy) to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me.”
As I see it, one of the great ways to overcome both my sins of commission and my sins of omission is to force myself to spend more of my time with those around me who are being overlooked or ignored. Why? Because, apparently, that’s where Jesus must be hanging out! And if Jesus is there, I’m figuring there’s much less chance of me getting caught up in my own stuff, my own self-centeredness, or my own self-pity.
Hey, I know. Let’s you and me get together today and go out looking for folks who are being overlooked and forgotten. If I’m reading this text correctly, my guess is that we sinful folks will find Jesus there and be well on our way to becoming those ‘sheep’ Jesus seems to really be proud of on that last day!
Not a baaaa-d idea, huh?
My prayer: Jesus, I see the great need, but sadly, I so rarely respond. My sins of omission are far from being hidden from Your sight. The blank spaces are yelling at me, Lord. In Your power and grace, forgive me when I fail to speak or act on behalf of those around me who are forgotten or overlooked. Spirit, empower me to speak and act. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So where today, in my circle of influence, are those who are forgotten or overlooked? Can I take an honest inventory today of my strengths and blessings so that I can go, in the name of Jesus, to bless those around me who are hungry, thirsty, homeless, shivering in the cold, sick, or confined as prisoners?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.