Taking responsibility for our acts

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

Genesis' account of the Fall (Gen. 3:9-15) tells us of the origin of one very common human tendency and the cause of most of our personal and societal problems: blaming others which ultimately is a manifestation of pride, the very cause of the Fall of our first parents. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent.

But the Fall notwithstanding, God still gave the human race another chance. When He said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel," God gave the first hint of our redemption. Eve's offspring would crush the head of the serpent, that is, be victorious over Satan.

Eve started the cycle of blaming. To blame others springs from our desire to be recognized, appreciated and respected. Our main concern is to appear good in the eyes of others, regardless. By blaming others, we set the rules: we are above mistakes, faults and sins and others are not. By blaming others, we hide our true selves which we are afraid to reveal as it would startle others. In reality, when we blame others we are looking for a scapegoat whom we burden with our guilt.

In the Gospel reading (Mk. 3:31-35), Mark says that while Jesus was teaching the people, He was told that His mother and relatives were looking for Him after which Jesus said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." This account is given in the three Synoptic gospels. Luke has another account on the same theme (Lk. 11:27-28). He has a woman shouting, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you." To which Jesus replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." These accounts tell us what discipleship consists in, namely, the hearing and doing the word of God.

Some people have said that with Jesus' response to the woman's praise for His mother, He showed lack of respect for her by not agreeing with the woman. Some fundamentalist Christians even affirm that with this apparent disregard of Jesus for His mother, He had finally put Mary in her proper place. Thus their attacks against Mary.

But that is farthest from the mind of Jesus. To Jesus, family ties are not what matter. Mary's motherhood was important and necessary and therefore she was to be blest for it. But what really matters is to hear the word of God and obey it. Thus they are the ones who are blest.

What is so wonderful about hearing the word of God and doing it? It is the mark of a true disciple and it constitutes discipleship. Mary, being His loving mother and having been at His side till He began His ministry, is the first among those who heard the word of God and obeyed it. Thus she is the first and greatest among His disciples.

By blessing those who hear the word of God and do it, Jesus has put an end to the cycle of blaming. He has placed responsibility where it belongs: on our shoulders. When we allow God to enter our life, when we discover God in the hearing of His word, we also discover ourselves in the process. We discover that before God, we are naked and transparent. We discover that blaming others is a form of pride and an insidious one at that since others suffer for our mistakes, faults and sins. We discover that there is nothing we can hide from Him and thus we have to be responsible for our acts.

Why? Because hearing the word of God and doing it is something between God and us alone. He not only sees our acts but our motives, too. Blaming others does not take away the guilt from us! We may fool people but we cannot fool God. There is nothing we can hide from God.

Moreover, in hearing and doing the word of God, we also discover that others, like us, are also on the way to God. And since we share the same goal with everyone else, we are to help instead of blaming others to enable us to do God's will. Then we do not only become responsible for our acts, we also become responsible for each other. Then we become true disciples of Jesus.

How do we begin true discipleship? The beginning of discipleship is conversion: "Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand." To repent and to be forgiven - to be converted - is to begin our journey to God which consists in first accepting and then doing something about our self-centedness and our sins and then letting God take. One writer has aptly expressed this truth: "Only he can be forgiven who confesses that he has something to be forgiven." When we accept our faults and sins and be sorry for them, God effects our reconciliation with Him which leads to reconciliation with others. Then we begin to be true disciples.