Hello out there! How is everybody? Hope y’all are doing well! Is it still raining where you are? I think the sun has gone on strike around here. We haven’t seen it in a while. No matter what your weather, grab a cup of something and have a comfy seat. I was chatting with our priest the other day and he said something really profound. It was so simple, I almost missed it. But he said this: “It all counts”.
Now, the context was all the little things we do all the time that make us less than perfect saints. The things we never give a second thought about, let alone confess as sin. You know, the little snippy remarks to that overbearing one in the office. Or the way we can get worked into a dither in line at the store, behind that woman with four carts and $1000 dollars worth of coupons. How about our response to that ‘jerk’ who just caused us to miss our exit on the way home from work, because he wouldn’t let us move over? Or maybe it’s being impatient with our kids, or our spouse – you know, the one who’s never ready to leave the house on time, no matter where we’re going? The one who thinks the processional was created for people to get into their pews… He said something else really profound. He’s very wise. He said that if we don’t think we have any sins, really, that we should ask our co-workers, our kids, our spouse. I bet they might have a slightly different perspective.
Even the ‘little sins’ – they all count. Why do we excuse ourselves? We’re not that bad, especially compared to the latest serial killer… or are we? One of the readings recently was from Matthew 5. This is the beginning of the Beatitudes. In verse 22, Jesus says this: “But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.” Did you catch that? Simply being angry is cause for judgment. He didn’t even say, if you swear in anger or actually do something in anger. He said, ‘if you are angry’. He goes on to verbal abuse and the like.
All those little irritations that come from someplace other than love for others… yeah, all of those. They all count. We’ve talked about the Beatitudes before. We’ve talked about excusing ourselves before. We’ve talked about all those things. And sometimes, I wonder if it’s mostly talk. Do we really take the Scripture seriously? Would it be any different if Jesus Himself was sitting up there on the hillside, on a rock, and we were there listening to Him in person? Or if we were walking alongside Him from town to town, day in and day out?
We have a term in the Catholic church for folks who think that every single thing they do or say might be a sin, they aren’t sure, but they carry guilt over it anyway. It’s called being scrupulous. There is also an army of faithful church attenders in many faith traditions who take the stance that Jesus couldn’t possibly mean that simply being irritated with someone is a sin. We somehow believe that our own anger is usually justified. We never stop to think that the cause of our anger or irritation, if you get down to the root, is selfishness. Sin, when you get down to the root, is selfishness. See the connection?
But there’s a flip side to this ‘it all counts’. There’s actually a good side. Hooray! Every little act of kindness or selflessness counts. Every drink of water given in love to a thirsty child, every offer to run an errand for a neighbor, every time we allow someone to go ahead of us in line. It all counts. Every sincere prayer on behalf of another counts. Every gesture of good will, every act of love, no matter how small. It all counts.
Where are you in all of this? What is ‘counting’ in your life? Do you need to talk to someone about it? Find a pastor or a priest. Do you need help to overcome some bad habits of speech or criticism? Ask them to pray for you and give you ideas on how to counteract those tendencies. I promise, no matter how long you’ve been ‘practicing’ being angry in some form, it can be overcome. Jesus promised that He would give us the grace to overcome our selfishness, if we ask and then do what He tells us. Go do something for someone in love. It all counts!