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The importance of little works

July 15, 2014

4th Sunday after Holy Trinityactos de bien

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17-21

Surely, have we heard, read and seen many stories about doing good, giving, forgiving and also about the consequences of good deeds.

Everything that is good in the world, we owe it to the people who tirelessly do good. Everything bad in the world we owe to the people who do not strive to do good. Rather, they think wrong, misjudge, and consequently criticize before doing evil. But the word of God today brings a very practical instruction: do not be tired of doing good. The theme for this Sunday is ‘the community of sinners.’ Who are the sinners? Every one of us. Despite being Christians and having been forgiven and accepted by God as his children, we still sin every day in thought, word and action. The only difference between us and those who are not Christians is that we can know the difference between things that are bad and things that are good.

The reading for today is pretty practical. I like being able to come to church and to leave having a practical suggestion on how we can behave like true Christians and also how we can be supported (blessed) by God for the way in which we live as children of God.

An interesting question for today is: Why did Jesus ask us to do good?

The first reason would be because retaliation, taking revenge or punishing evil is not something that is up to us to do as Christians, as children of God. Jesus says that the one who is responsible for this is God. From the moment that we belong to God and onward, we believe that He takes care of us, saves us, protects us and feeds us. For this Sunday, Psalm 42:11 puts it this way: “Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” This wisdom is expressed throughout the Bible. Our beloved Psalm 23:4 reads, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

An essential part of faith is trust; we believe what the word of God tells us is true and we believe that God speaks to us through it. It is impossible to be a Christian without trusting in God. Often, this matter of revenge arises and we believe that we are the ones who must find justice for ourselves. Today, God calls us to trust in His care. He urges us to trust Him in this particular aspect of our lives. Do not repay evil with evil. Do not return in kind the evil that has been done to us. One of the most important commandments of the Bible is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Sometimes it is hard to forgive or forget the evil was done or is being done to us. Sometimes the evil that has been committed or is being committed to us is so great that we have the urge to pay back the other with the same coin. And that is terribly wrong. It is wrong for three reasons:

Firstly, when we do so we are disobeying Jesus Christ.

Secondly, it shows that we are not trusting in His word and in His care.

And thirdly, the Bible itself is full of this wisdom: ‘we reap what we sow’. Those who give evil will only reap more evil in their life.

For that reason, let us trust that God will take care of our problem when evil looms over us or our community. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Mt 18:6) That is the abundant promise for us and the terrible warning for those who persecute us and want wrong for the church. Therefore, Jesus asks us today, let him respond to evil and let us show our true faith by fully trusting in his word.

Many people say that it is difficult to forgive someone who has done us wrong. True, people are all different. Some Christians have the gift of knowing how to forgive. Others, however, find it hard to forgive. A good practical suggestion for those who find it hard to forgive is: remember what Jesus tells us today, do not repay evil with evil. Do not return in kind. If someone has wronged you and it’s hard to forgive, do not do the same thing. That’s not only wise advice but a command from God.

Today, there are many philosophies of life that abound out there that are essentially good because they look for the good– perhaps unaware that the Bible deals with it–, to heal people and seek a more fulfilling lifestyle. A practical way of thinking which I have read and I think is very wise said that, under all circumstances against which we cannot find peace, the wisest solution is: “let it go”, “release the load,” forgive and forget. They have found thousands of cases of people who have not only healed themselves mentally but also cases of miraculous healings. The Bible is full of miracles. And miracles begin when you put your trust in the word of God and begin to obey God. He says: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10) God calls upon us today to adopt a similar mindset to that healing philosophy: “let it go”, “let us leave the hatred and rancor”. “Let us leave all feelings of unforgiveness and resentment”. These feelings will make us sick and keep us away from God.

Let us give God the bad feelings that we have toward our neighbor, our fears, our anxieties, our insecurities, our resentment, our envy and our jealousy and place them down at the foot of the cross of Christ. That’s why, every time we pray in our services, we declare that we bring all that prevents us from having a good relationship with God and we want to place it symbolically at the foot of the cross of our altar, for Christ to take care of things that we cannot handle.

Likewise today, God says to us, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” This is not just a cute code of ethics or noble principle for a citizen’s life. This is the word of God and we are asked to obey it for our own good in life so that we receive that abundant life that God promises.

Is it possible to do the good? Yes, we can always do good. Every day there are thousands of ways to do good. They range from insignificant details to major works. If you’ve never proposed doing good, you can begin to do so today. We don’t want to do good in order to simply do good works and to be better than others. We do good because we want to please God and we want God to bless us. And one of the first things that must be clear to us when we respond to those that do evil to us, when it seems impossible to do the good is: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” In difficult situations, this will be the best way of doing good.

How can we do good? That is up to our imagination. The important thing is that our thoughts are pure and good. If we think well of others, we will be able to speak well of them and if we talk nice, we will be able to act well. One thing helps the other. Jesus complained of the Pharisees and said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Mt 15:8)

First we must ask God for strength to control the quality of our thoughts. Think positive and, especially, think about others as we would like others to think about us. And a good place to start practicing this is in our church, where we say that we are Christians and we say that we love each other.

Second, Jesus said of those same people: What defiles a man is not what goes in your mouth. “What comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Mt 15:11) Be mindful of your words. What we say can defile us. Even though the people we speak about don’t hear us, God does hear and we are the only ones harmed. Start talking about others as we would like others to talk about us when we are not present. This is a good exercise and we will show if our words are good or evil.

The tongue has the power of life and death. (Gen) This is an amazing phrase and we should take it seriously. Every time we speak words we are speaking either life or death to ourselves and those who hear us; so we need to be cautious about the words we utter. Our mouth gives expression to what we want, think and feel; therefore it reveals a great deal about the one who is speaking. We can learn a lot about ourselves just by listening to the things we say. Mt 12:34 says: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

Our words are the result of our inner thoughts and attitudes. One might say that our words are a movie screen that reveals what we have been thinking and the attitudes that we have. Our words can also increase or decrease our level of joy. They can affect the answers to our prayers and have a negative or positive effect on our future. We should pay a lot of attention to what the word of God has to teach us about the power of our words. When a person is not satisfied with the condition of his life, it would be good to take an inventory of the words he has spoken.

And finally, it is time for action. “The flapping of a butterfly’s wings can be felt across the world,” says a Chinese proverb. We can have a huge effect through a pure and concrete act of good that not only pleases God but also affects our entire world and brings blessings to each of us. Scientists and meteorologists have discovered amazing things when studying our climate. They say: This interrelation of cause and effect is given in all the events of life. A small change can yield big results or hypothetically “the flutter of a butterfly in Hong Kong can unleash a storm in New York.

Imagine all the good we can produce in the world if each of us chooses to think positive, speak positive, pray, and do a small act of love and good, in our families, in our Pilgrim Church and in our society. “Do not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good.”

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