Twenty-sixth Sunday B: Homily
Objective: That we may get rid of anything that might ruin our souls.
Many people in this world have lost parts of their bodies for the sake of saving the rest of their bodies from cancer or any other danger. People have their legs, or hands, or breasts amputated in order to avoid losing their entire earthly life, which at one time they have to lose anyway. Some people endure painful exercises because they prefer to live small than to die big.
This means that what Jesus is saying in the gospel is not a utopia. He is telling us what we must do should the survival of our souls be at stake. He says: “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.” (Mk 9:43). If a hand or foot or an eye gets in the way of our soul’s salvation, it has to go! This implies that the salvation of the soul is more important than parts of the body or even the entire body.
The hand, or foot or eye, here, stands for anything that can cause a person to miss heaven and go to hell instead. It may be pride that hinders a person from obeying God’s commandments. It may be a sinful relationship. It is possibly greed or selfishness, or jealousy, injustice, anger, pornography or intolerance.
It could be racism, or the desire to steal, or to commit adultery or to kill. Perhaps it is drugs or alcohol. It might even be laziness. Whatever it may be, cut it off. Get rid of it. It is better to go to heaven without it than to go to hell with it.
Today’s scripture readings give us a strong warning against jealousy, intolerance and scandal. In the first reading (Num:11:25-29), out of jealousy and envy, Joshua is intolerant to the two men who started prophesying without attending the Spirit-giving ordination ceremony Moses conducted in the camp. This selection is intended to provide a biblical background for Jesus’ response to the same kind of jealousy.
In the Gospel (Mk 9:38-48), John, the apostle, complains to Jesus that a man outside their group of selected disciples is exorcising demons in Jesus’ name in spite of the attempt to prevent him from doing so. Jesus teaches the apostles to part with jealousy and be tolerant to the man.
According to Genesis (1:26), human beings were created in God’s image. That implies that each human being is expected to reveal God in the universe.
In Baptism we received a responsibility to listen to the word of God and proclaim it. That is why our ears and lips were blessed. Each baptized was anointed priest, king, and prophet, like Jesus (Lk 4:18; Is 61:1-3) and shared in the light of Christ (Mt 5:14) ‘to bring the good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to announce release to captives and freedom to those in prison (of the devil), to proclaim that the time has come when the Lord will save his people and defeat their enemies, to comfort all who mourn.’ (Is 61:1-3). All the baptized received the Holy Spirit for this purpose.
So, we should proclaim the gospel as much as directed by the Holy Spirit and the Magisterium of the Church without fearing to step on anyone’s toes. And there should be no jealousy or envy when we see people succeeding in their mission.
Do not argue: “I am neither a priest nor a deacon, so how can I spread the kingdom of God?” Imitate Eldad and Medad of the first reading (Num 11:25-29) or the person who was not Christ’s disciple, but was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. You can work as a catechist; you can learn and communicate the faith to your family members and neighbors. Priests and deacons have no monopoly over spreading the faith. Whoever can help Jesus in his ministry is welcome. No disciple of Jesus should pile up riches of faith without sharing them with others.
However, we should keep in mind the strong warning of Jesus against giving scandal, especially to innocent children, vulnerable members of the community and beginners in the faith. That would contradict and undermine the gospel.
That is why the abuses done by religious leaders are horrible and abominable! But also other scandals, like parents scandalizing their children by not attending Mass on Sundays are quite serious. – Jesus warns us that just as a doctor might remove by surgery a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us or others to sin and which leads to spiritual death; that is to say “a state of eternal suffering” known as “Gehenna” or “Hell” (everlasting fire).
In the second reading (Jas 5:1-6), James warns the rich who refuse to pay a just wage to their workers, those who ignore the needs of others and those who condemn and murder the innocent. If they want to go to heaven, they must get rid of their greed and injustices.
In order to be able to offer himself on the cross and create the Eucharist which we are celebrating now, Jesus got rid of the temptations of the devil, which were seducing him to have earthly pleasures. So, let us abide by his word and get rid of anything that could prevent us from entering his kingdom. Let us cut it off. Jesus keeps strengthening us with his word and Eucharist for this purpose.