Reflection on the Sunday's readings: Daniel
Daniel's previous reflections
Sunday 26(B): Charity versus offense – Mark 9:41-42
tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you
belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. And if anyone causes one of
these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be
thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck” (Mark
9:41-42). In these two sentences, we deal with two opposites: charity versus
offense; reward versus punishment.
a cup of water
A legend has it that Moses gave up. He did not have strength or energy to continue. The desert was vast and the oasis, seemingly so near, had to be just a creation of his mind. He fell and at peace with himself waited for death to come. Instead, he heard a voice: “Moses! Wake up!” He opened his eyes and saw in front of him a cup of water. It was not much, but just enough to help him realize that the oasis was real; that God had sent somebody to take care of him; and that he was not going to die, at least not yet.
We often associate charity with international NGO’s and foundations. Gates’ Foundation, Save the Children Funds; CARE, and many others are making the headlines in the news when it comes to massive-scale relief operations and projects to help the poor and the weak. However, we tend to overlook the simple daily acts and gestures that, although unnoticed, often have a life-changing impact on others. “Putting a lost man on the right road, giving a thirsty man a drink of water, smiling in your brother’s face – that, too, is charity” (Mohammad). Such acts of charity make our days bearable. They bring a glow of joy to our faces, because we are able to help others; they put a new hope and courage on the faces of others because they realize that they are not left alone in their trials and sufferings.
According to Paul, Jesus is supposed to have said
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 – these words are
not recorded in the Gospels). Paul pointed to himself as an example of a person
who, although a missionary, earned his living with his own hands. “You
yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the
needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of
hard work we must help the weak . . .” (Acts 20:34-35). Yes, Paul is right.
There is something about giving that makes it into a rich blessing. Richard was
a small entrepreneur, a husband and a father of one daughter. Deeply devoted
Christian – a Catholic – he decided to adopt a child. Then, seeing his
business expanding, he decided to adopt another one. Yet, it did not end with
these two adoptions. At present, Richard’s house is a home-based orphanage
with eleven children from age five to fifteen. There was never so much joy in
his house as it is now, and despite all the expenses, they never lack anything.
Yes, there is a reward in giving a cup of water to somebody: a foretaste of
heaven in this world.
A little girl came to her father and asked: “Daddy! Please play with me.” He was tired, so he told her to leave him alone and go out to the street and play there. The girl, sad and disappointed – her mother died a year ago – went and played. That ritual went for months, till the girl did not ask anymore her father to play with her. Some years later, she ended up living and working on the streets. Time flies, so one day, the girl died and her soul arrived in heaven. Peter saw her and said to Jesus: “Master, here is that girl who turned into a prostitute. Shall I send her straight to hell?” “No” – was the response of Jesus, “let her in.” “But that man who refused to play with his little daughter and sent her out to the streets, he, yes, send him to hell.” (Adopted from O. Henry)
The Greek word skandalon is often rendered as “stumbling block” or “offense.” In April 2009, Benedict XVI apologized for the abuse that aboriginal students in Canada suffered at the hands of Catholic missionary congregations. That is a skandalon. Jesus tells that it is better to be dead than to create a scandal. We cannot be sure what Jesus meant by that. We can presume that he spoke about false prophets who would lead Christians away from their faith: “Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many” (Mark 13:5); “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect – if that were possible” (Mark 13:22). But today, we may safely include here those Christians who live scandalous lives and all those fanatics who in order to purify the “doctrine” are ready to resort to violent means.
help is to win the eternal reward. To cause a weaker brother to stumble is to
win the eternal punishment,” said W. Barclay. Even, if someone would object to
such black and white terms, nevertheless, we are presented with an option to
choose. The experience of life tells us that there is definitely a blessing in
charity, blessing that envelopes all dimensions of our being. At the same time,
we easily realize that there is a curse associated with scandal that brings
sufferings and violence upon innocent people. Psalm 109 has this to say about a
man who did not show mercy, but persecuted the poor and the beggar: “he loved
cursing – let it fall upon him; he did not want blessing – let it be far
from him” (Ps 109:16). I am sure
all of us delight in blessing and dread to cause scandal. May God empower us to
walk in charity, the only way leading to Life.