Walt Disney was known to be a ruthless film editor. He felt that if something in the filming got in the way of the story’s flow it should be cut out – even if the scene itself was funny or beautiful.
Good writers tell us that to produce a good piece of literature you have to edit and edit and edit. Pieces of writing are effective largely because of what was cut out – so that only the best remains.
If we think of our lives as the story that God dreams for us, what needs to be edited right now so that the story of our life can flow as God intends?
In the Gospel that we just listened to, Jesus uses some very graphic illustrations to make that point. He is using something called hyperbole: an extreme exaggeration to draw a lesson that we just can’t miss.
Jesus says, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye is the means of your sin, pluck it out. Better to enter into life,” He says, “with one hand or one foot or one eye, than to go to the fires of Gehenna – the fires of hell – with all of your members intact.”
We get the point! What in our lives needs to be cut out so that the story of our life can flow? Sometimes the difference between a mess and a masterpiece lies in what is eliminated.
The first place we would look for editing is the sin in our lives. It gets in the way. It becomes a part of us.
There’s an old rhyme that goes:
“Who’s there?” I said.
“A little lonely sin.”
“Enter,” I said.
And then all hell broke in.
People will sometimes admit that there was a sin that they gave into years ago that has had a profound effect on them ever since. It seemed at the time to be no big deal, but it has affected them deeply.
Sin can do that. We talk about “the seven capital sins,” or “the seven deadly sins.” What makes them “capital” or “deadly” sins is that they enable other sins to follow. They are: pride [which is the chief one], covetousness [or greed], lust, anger, gluttony [or intemperance], envy, and sloth [or laziness]. These sins can take root and enable other sins. With God’s grace we need to cut them out. And we have to have a plan in order to do this.
There was a woman on an airplane years ago when an airline dinners actually existed! She got her meal and she immediately took the salt and pepper and sprinkled them on the chocolate cake that was there for dessert. The flight attendant said, “What are you doing? That’s not necessary!” And the woman answered, “Oh yes, it is. Otherwise I just might eat it!”
We have to have a plan for eliminating the sin in our lives. And the Sacrament of Penance is an enormous help. We have an opportunity to celebrate this sacrament at Saint Joseph every Thursday evening following the 7:00 PM Mass until 8:30 PM, and every Saturday morning from 11:00 AM until 12:00 Noon.
Second, our relationships in life sometimes need some editing. We need to go back regularly and look at our priorities and be sure that we are living according to them when it comes to our relationships with others.
I see Pope Francis as someone who does this very well. Look at all that he is doing to relate well to people in our nation. English is not his strong language, and yet he practiced for months so that he could deliver his address to Congress in the language of our nation. Imagine how tired he must be after his travels to Cuba and now to the United States. And yet he smiles and looks people in the eye as though each person was the most important person in the world.
What has he been talking about with us? He summed it all up in the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have others do to you.” He has applied that to immigrants, children, the elderly, the hungry, the homeless, the jobless, the imprisoned, and so on.
And how did Pope Francis become so sensitive to human relationships? By daily conversion … by daily editing his life. And his message to America – to continually edit the way that we relate to other people – is all the more convincing by the strength of his own example.
The third area that may need some editing is in our relationship with God. What place do I give God in my life? Well, you might say, “I’m here at Mass right now, on this Sunday morning.” And I’m glad you are, and I commend you for that! But what about the other six days?
What part of your daily life do you commit for prayer? I’m afraid sometimes that if we gave our human friendships the same amount of time and attention that we give to God each week, our human friendships would not survive.
God has offered us a relationship with Himself. How do I respond to that relationship with the gift of time that God has given me?
The Gospel today sounds pretty harsh – cutting off things. But the point is well made. Jesus wants the story of our life to flow from beginning to end according to God’s dream for us. What in our lives needs some editing: in terms of sin, in terms of our relationships with others, and in terms of our relationship with God?
When we allow God to be our editor-in-chief, God can turn the story of our lives from being a mess into becoming a masterpiece. And, with His grace, to end “happily ever after” in the kingdom of heaven.