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Things Done And Left Undone

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

My dear encountered couples:

Do you ever feel guilty when there are things you could have done for people but don’t do? Things you have the ability and know—how for making life better for people but never get around to? I hope so. For those feelings of guilt indicate you are a sensitive and caring person. It is the people who don’t feel guilty that might have a problem.

Guilt is common to all caring people who have so much on their things-to-do list that they find themselves not only short of breath but short of time. For those of us who would like to take care of everybody else’s problems, make everybody else happy, see to everyone’s comfort, we soon find there is just not enough fire in our furnaces or hours in our days. And when we go to bed at night, though we might have gone at full speed and done our best all day long, there is a feeling of guilt nagging at us because there are still a few problems we did not solve, a few people we did not get around to. Do you suppose Jesus experienced that? Do you suppose Jesus ever had guilt feelings when he went to bed at night because he didn’t get around to taking care of everybody?

A leper came to Jesus, knelt down and begged him, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” And Jesus moved with pity, stretched out his hand, touched him and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the man was cured of his leprosy.

That man believed that Jesus had the power to cure him, and all that was needed was for Jesus to want to do it. Isn’t that what some people might think of you? You have the power and ability to do certain things for them, so they feel that all that is left is for you to be willing to do them. For them the solution to their problem is as simple as that. But for you it isn’t, is it? Real life is not simply being able and willing to do something, there is much more involved.

Jesus as God could have cured all the lepers in Israel if he had wanted to, and I have no doubt about him wanting to. But as a human being, which the God in him had chosen to be united to and bound by, Jesus was limited to time, place, and energy. Jesus may have wanted to cure everybody in Israel of everything, I don’t doubt that he would like to have solved the problems of everybody on planet Earth and gone to bed knowing all’s right with the world. But like us he was human. He could do just so much during a twenty—four-hour day and within the number of years he was given on earth. Isn’t that the same with us?

There are many things we may be capable of doing, many things we would like to do. But when our time is so filled with so much we have to decide what is urgent, what can be put aside till later, and what we must leave for someone else to take care of.

Jesus cured many people of their diseases and handicaps, he fed several thousand who were hungry, he taught all who were within shouting distance, but many others he never got around to remained sick, underfed, and uninstructed. Though he was a very busy man he took time to stop, talk, and answer questions. He accepted invitations to lunches and dinners, he went to at least one wedding reception, he probably showed up at a few bar mitzvahs too. And in the midst of all that he somehow managed to lay the foundations for his church. But that was it, his time was up, he had to leave. And so much still needed to be done. Did he feel guilty when he went back to heaven leaving so much undone? Will you? What Jesus didn’t get done he left to others to do.

When you are out of time, out of breath, simply unable to do all that you have the ability to do, all that you are even willing to do, do you get guilt feelings when you don’t do them? If so, then you are expecting too much of yourself. Everybody’s problems are not yours to solve, everybody’s state of happiness is not your obligation to take care of. Life is a team effort that requires the work and ability of everybody on earth, none of us is meant to be a one—person show. We are to do what we have the time and energy to do; the rest we are to leave for others.

If you feel guilty when everyone in your house and among your acquaintances is not comfy and happy, all I can say is - DON’T! Happiness is an internal thing, a personal problem that can be solved only by the person him and herself. It depends on many factors — needs, desires, whims, moods, whatever. You might be able to take care of some of the needs, but the desires, whims, and moods must be taken care of and controlled by the individual who has them. If there were many people Jesus couldn’t satisfy and make happy, including some of his own relatives, who are you to think you can make them all happy?

One-time Jesus was talking to a crowd gathered around him about John the Baptist. He told them, “John came neither eating or drinking and you say, ‘He is mad.’ I’ve come eating and drinking, and you accuse me of being a glutton and a drunkard.” In other words, Jesus was telling them that no one and no thing seemed able to satisfy them. They were always wanting more and different. We must learn that lesson too. No matter how much you do for some people, no matter how hard you try to please and make them happy, it will never happen. Don’t let yourself feel guilty about that. Don’t let anyone succeed in making you feel guilty when you’ve done your share. There were many more people Jesus couldn’t satisfy than he could. And there still are.

Always remember what St. Augustine said: “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in thee.” Something deep inside all of us will never be satisfied until we are in heaven with God.

A leper came to Jesus and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and said, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.” How many lepers did Jesus miss that day? How many did he leave as outcasts in the hills of Israel when he ascended into heaven?

We are all to do what we can do but keep this well in mind. Contrary to what you may have heard, too much work can kill you. Do what you can, but at the same time be sure to eat well and get enough sleep. The world will benefit more from you the longer you stay around.

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