2.12.23 6th S.: One Bite At A Time

Today’s homily is for 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 12, 2023, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here soon.

Do any of you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It’s true. Bites aren’t all that big, but they’ll get you there eventually. I’ve heard it said that a journey of a hundred miles starts with a single step. That’s very true as well. I have something else that’s true: infidelity begins with a glance, a giggle, an innocent touch. Bloodshed begins with anger in the heart, jealousy, arrogance, pride–and it’s end is violence and death.

In the Gospel today Jesus is trying to get us to wake up and be honest with ourselves. You’re not right with your neighbor just because you’re not killing him! And you’re not right with God just because you’re not using his holy name in vain. You’re right with your neighbor when there is peace and goodwill, and you’re right with God when you praise, worship, and adore. 

So often we’re like children always looking for the line. I remember doing this as a kid in the backseat of the car. My mom would yell, “Stop touching your sister!” To that rule I was faithful. I would put my finger right in front of her eye. Yes, I wasn’t touching her, but I was still in her face and bothering her. What my mom wanted had nothing to do with touching–my mom wanted me to respect her and give her space. She wanted me to stop being annoying!

Remember how to eat an elephant? If you want to get to heaven, start doing kind things one act at a time. As Mother Theresa said, do small actions done with great love. And stop doing, albeit small, hurtful things to your neighbor. Jesus never said, “Don’t kill your neighbor.” Jesus said to love your neighbor. Our question should not be, “Is this harm venial or mortal?” but instead, “Is this action loving?” 

St. Augustine makes the point that venial sin, although small, begins to take on great weight when there are many. He said to consider how small and of what little consequence a grain of sand appears to be, but when combined with others it makes up the entire sea shore. Like the kingdom of God that begins as a seed and grows, so too do our wrongful actions. Small incidents, hurtful words or actions, taking something from work for personal use…all of these are small but they begin to form our character. They are steps in the wrong direction.

Like the long journey that begins with a single step, the road to hell starts the same way, namely, unloving actions. As we journey toward the beginning of lent, we need to begin thinking about the quality of our life, and ask God to show us those small things that are keeping us from him. As him for the courage and fortitude to live well. To live right. To value prudence, justice, and temperance. I’ll leave you with this favorite saying of mine:

Be careful what you watch and listen to, it becomes you think about. Be careful what you think about, it becomes your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny for the whole of eternity.

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