Some say that people today are losing, or perhaps have already lost, a capacity to be deeply moved by human suffering. The kind of world we live in inevitably has a numbing effect on the human spirit. One hour with a newspaper or thirty minutes in front of the television exposes one to an overwhelming amount of tragedy. Day in and day out, we are served a steady diet of war, murder, terrorism, kidnapping, rape, robbery, and torture. The more we see of man’s inhumanity to man, the less we seem to be shocked by it.
Then we come to Mass and are confronted once more with Jesus, and I fear that prior conditioning has impaired our ability to feel and see what Jesus really is saying about our concern for one another. We need to reflect once more on the power of Jesus to disrupt and disturb human complacency. The power of Jesus has done this to thousands of people across the centuries and possibly it could do the same to us.
When life begins to harden us to the tragedy of human suffering, one of the surest signs is that we feel no involvement in it or responsibility for it. No doubt, many today train their minds to think that way. After all, suffering and death are all part of life. We have long since gotten used to the idea.
Perhaps, we cannot remember the last time our conscience disturbed us very much about anything. But we need to remember that at times we can be part of an evil system that could continue a sense of complacency in the face of human need.
You and I have not seen our guilt for what it really is until we have faced it in this light. Sin is bad enough for what it does in and to the lives of the guilty. But the worst thing about sin is the suffering it inflicts on the lives of those that are not involved, are not guilty, and do not deserve it.
There is an oft-repeated proverb in the Old Testament about “the iniquity of the fathers being visited upon the children to the third and fourth generations.” That saying has caused some people to rise up in protest against the injustice of life. Instinctively, we say, “That isn’t fair. Why should children and even grandchildren have to pay for the sins of their fathers?”
And that’s the whole point of the matter. Of course, it isn’t fair. But this isn’t something God does. It is instead something that we do; something that is built into the very nature of sin. No person ever drinks the full cup of his or her own iniquity. Always some of it spills over on the lines of those around him or her – the children, family, and friends. The innocent do bear the sins of the guilty. That is the way life works and not even God can change it.
We are not bad people. Judging by accepted standards, it could be argued that we are good men and women. We have certain principles that we live by. We keep the rules of decency and honor. But the power of Jesus should continue to disturb us. It should continue to challenge us to do something about human needs until it is wiped off the face of this earth.