The Gospel story is familiar to all of us. We have mental pictures of the paralytic dangling through the roof by four cords. When Jesus told the man his sins were forgiven that was not what his four friends on the roof had been hoping for. However, if the man himself had been blaming his paralysis on his own sinful past that forgiveness could have been what he most needed.
Let’s take a look at the Responsorial Psalm. It says, “What our fathers have declared to us, we will declare to the generations to come.”
Stretching it a little, that Psalm could remind us both of our many debts to the people of preceding generations and of our obligations to our succeeding generations.
In regard to those who went before us we are of course indebted to our direct ancestors who did not pollute our DNA with abusive habits, but we are indebted as well to the whole of the society that provided us with the food, the dwellings and the energy that sustain us.
For coming generations we are obliged to continue providing the food, dwellings and energy they will need to sustain them. But our obligations to them extend as well to contributing to their happiness.
That might sound like too vague of an obligation for us to act on, but nevertheless it is a real obligation. Each of us might come in contact with two dozen people a day, and however minimally our kind interest in them or our indifference to them affects them, they will be better or worse for it. And that in turn might have a ripple effect on those with whom they come in contact.
Everything we do makes the world around us a teeny teeny bit better or a teeny teeny bit worse, and it all adds up in the long run.