Sunday, September 30
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
At that time, John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”
Lots of things are going on in today’s gospel passage from St. Mark.
First, we hear that Jesus is happy with those who perform mighty works by driving out demons even though they are not in his company of followers. John the brother of James seeks purity of motive on behalf of the healer, but the message is clear, anyone who speaks in the name of Jesus cannot be against him. This is a great lesson for us all.
Second, there is a great price to pay for one who destroys or attempts to destroy the faith of a new follower of Jesus. This is not a reference to children, but a reference to one who is new to the faith and is tempted to go astray. We must always care for the newly initiated in Christ.
Third, whatever causes us to sin but be dealt with in the most correct and dramatic way. Here we are not looking for physical harm done to oneself but a spiritual healing that takes place at the source of our sin. We are asked to examine what it is that directs us away from Christ and forces us to selfishness and entitlement. The warning is to act quickly when one recognizes the sin so as not to prolong the downward spiral that only makes things worse.
These three practical lessons are a part of how we live the message of Jesus each day. This is a good examination for each of us as we begin a new week.