Today's Gospel is haunting. It haunts all of us, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends. Forgiveness; sinning; faith. It is Christ, Our Savior, telling us we have to get over ourselves and forgive. We cannot bring children to sin. And even the teeny tiny mustard seed worth of faith would plant a tree in the sea. These are the kind of words and teachings that we'll be liable for on the Last Day. He means it. We need to live it.
No matter how many times our neighbor, brother, friend, spouse drives us completely, justifiably, bananas, we still have to forgive them. What, Lord? What about the 70th time they do it? What about then? We still have to forgive them. That means not only saying it aloud, but in that quiet crevice of our hearts where we store justified anger like leftover Halloween candy in the upper shelf of the pantry. That place we go when we want to nurse a wound, where we go when we're lonely and want the company of a hot cup of anger. That place we have to release and those feelings we have to let die out. It's hard stuff to hear.
Temptation and sin—two forces we all live with each and every day. I am tempted to be slothful and not really ever get ready for the day (bathrobe living as a SAHM mom, right?). I am tempted to just give in to losing my temper at my small children. I do it. I give them a terrible example and start laying the brickwork for a patio of impatient behavior in their little hearts.
When we hear that it's better to have a millstone around your neck and drown than to cause children to sin—a slow and tortuous death of drowning while you flail and kick and beg for life? Something worse than that is our punishment? And when do we cause our children to sin, our friend's children, our neighbor's children? What qualifies as being the cause of children's sinning? Christ isn't specific. We can only mull over the poor examples we give. The impatience, the jealousy, the coveting, the nasty comments. And then there are all the nonverbals we teach: the coldness, the frugality with love that keeps our familial fabric thinner than it could be. Not choosing love, but choosing ourselves, and we need to teach better.
And with faith, with a genuine deep faith in God's mercy, love, and care for us, we could work insane miracles in our lives. How can you choose love? How can we all choose to believe in a God of love, a God of forgiveness? Who do we need to forgive and let go of that hot nugget of wound in our heart of hearts?
photo by Madeline Hill
Nell O'Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.