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09/27/15 Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

Every once in a while it is a good thing for us to take time to reflect on topics that make us uncomfortable. Today the Church is inviting us to do just that.

Throughout the Readings, today's liturgy emphasizes one simple truth of our Catholic faith: sin matters. In today's First Reading, St James graphically explains that if someone spends their earthly life exploiting and using other people, lying and cheating and hoarding wealth, they may enjoy the fruits of their crimes for a little while, but they can't escape justice forever. He writes that they will "weep and wail over their miseries."

Jesus is just as clear. He explains that un-repented sin has consequences; it leads to damnation, to hell, which was commonly called "Gehenna." The word originally referred to a valley on the outskirts of Jerusalem that had been used for human sacrifice during royal apostasies in Old Testament times. By the time of Christ, the valley had come to be used as a kind of outdoor public incinerator. Worthless and rotten trash and refuse, including the dead bodies of animals and criminals, were dumped into the valley and gradually consumed by a smoldering fire that was always kept burning. 

Whenever we see a crucifix, we should be reminded that God loved us that much, but we should also be reminded that our sins matter; they have consequences.  God's generosity will be the source of a lot of surprises on Judgment Day.

When we think of that day, either the particular judgment, when each one of us will come face to face with our Creator after our death, or the general judgment at the end of history, when everlasting justice will finally be established, we tend to focus on the negative. But in today's Gospel, Jesus points out that the Judgment will also have another part to it.

He says that even if someone gives just a glass of water to a thirsty neighbor in Christ's name, he will not lose his reward - think about what that means. Every act of forgiveness, every donation to a worthy cause, every penny put in the collection basket, every piece of clothing given to the poor, every kind letter or visit paid to someone who was sick, in prison, or alone, every prayer offered up for those in need, every word of comfort, instruction, and guidance, every single action that we perform in our Christian efforts to love God and neighbor is noticed, remembered, and delighted in by our Lord Jesus Christ.

And he is storing up rewards for them all in heaven. This too is part of the judgment, a manifestation of God's generosity.

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