I love the Book of Sirach and I love the way this first reading begins with powerful, blunt words. “If you wish, you can keep the commandments; to behave faithfully is within your power.” Well, so much for our excuses. Just like that, God’s Word demands we accept responsibility for every breach of God’s law. We don’t get to excuse ourselves saying things like “I’m only human,” or “everyone makes mistakes.” Those things are both true and they are both irrelevant. If you wish, you can keep the commandments. If you don’t keep the commandments, it isn’t because you had a rough childhood or because the man is keeping you down or because nobody understands how hard it is for you. If you don’t keep the commandments, it’s because you do not wish to. Does that sound harsh and judgmental of your neighbor? But we’re not talking about your neighbor. We’re talking about you. And you know it’s true. I know my excuses are lame, and I know that you know that your excuses are lame. No neighbor-judging here.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Sunday, February 9, 2014
It’s an oft-told story; I’ve told it before and will tell it again, but it’s a good one. Years back, The Times of London sent an inquiry to various famous authors and intellectuals, inviting submissions on a simple question. Their question was, “What’s wrong with the world?” I assume some of their respondents wrote at some length, but the answer still remembered was a very brief one: “Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G.K. Chesterton." A great Catholic answer from a great Catholic thinker.
On one hand, we can say that Chesterton’s answer is certainly incomplete. There’s far more wrong with the world than any one man, even one as large as he. But he won because he declined to externalize a problem that he was involved in. He took responsibility. I think it also shows that Chesterton had taken to heart our Lord’s words in the Gospel: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?”