Nm 11:25-29; Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
"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
They are very strong words. Listening to these words we feel immediately awkward, uncomfortable and absolutely ill at ease. We would prefer to skip this passage or even to delete it from the Gospel. But Jesus is telling us today in a very open way about something we prefer not to listen to. He is telling us about Hell and the scandal we are causing by our words, our teaching, our behaviour and our negligence.
First we have to make a clear distinction between two different things:
- being upset
- and being scandalised
- In the first case I am upset because I don't like the truth somebody is trying to tell me, and in this case I am wrong!
- In the second case I am misguided, somebody purposely give me the wrong example, lied or did something wrong in order to mislead me, to encourage me to commit a sin.
And this is the case Jesus is talking about in today's Gospel.
Let us see the first part:
"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."
Let us take an example:
Do you remember your First Holy Communion? If you are a faithful Catholic, that is one day of your childhood that stands out in your memory. We make a big deal out of receiving First Holy Communion. Grandparents will travel a hundreds of miles to be present for a seven year old’s big day. Parents will work hard with their children to be sure the little ones understand what they are doing and Whom they are receiving. First Communion is not a celebration of childhood. It is a celebration that the child is now admitted into the Gift of a Eucharistic relationship with Jesus Christ. We remember the first time we received Him, and we thank God that we have lost count of the times we have been united to Him in the Eucharist.
But, do you know what is the most frustrating moment -for me- at the beginning of the school year? It is when I am confessing the grade three children. Last year there were prepared for the First Communion, for ten months they were coming to participate in the classes, they were all excited to be prepared to receive Jesus Christ, they were excited for their first Reconciliation, the day of First Communion they were beautifully dressed and living and extraordinary day, ... and then ... after summer holidays they say with sincerity:
- "Father since the day of my First Communion I haven't been in the church".
- "O, you know father we were traveling, golfing, camping, visiting our relatives ... and when I ask my Mom why we don't go to the church at least on Sunday, she answered me that we have no time, that we are too busy."
And I ask myself: "What for was this whole year's preparation, courses, stress, and finally let us be frank 'hypocrisy'?" Was it only for this one Sunday at the end of May, or maybe for our "comfort" so that we can say "I am catholic"?
In this case children are not upset, they are scandalized.
You can tell me that there are far bigger and more serious scandals caused by unfaithful and treacherous priests, and you certainly know it better than me. But does it justify the scandals we are causing to our children? They (the priests) will be certainly called to account, but is it an excuse for me and my acts, words and sins?
And ... what kind of books do we allow the children to read? What kind of movies they are allowed to watch? What do they can see and learn in our houses and in our schools? How to understand the fact that children are coming sometimes complaining:
"Father, why our teacher is contradicting the teaching of the church and this, what our parents tell us. We are confused. Who is right?"
They are upset –certainly they are- but they are also scandalized.
Do we realise that it is a very serious matter? Do we realise that we will be called to account for what we were teaching and showing our children?
Let us see the second part when Jesus says:
"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off ...
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off...
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out ..."
It is obvious that I cannot and should not cut of my hand, but I certainly can cut off my stupid TV programs or channels?
I certainly don't need to cut off my foot, but I can simply restrain to go where I will get nothing good or nothing worthy. Or where I expect to be confused or to do something wrong.
It is obvious that I cannot and should not pluck out my eye, but I can certainly plug off my computer connections and not to be exposed to the sin of pornography.
This I can without cutting off my hands or my feet ... or without plucking out my eyes.
Jesus talking about the matter of sin and scandal is very serious, because it is the reason for what He came to the world to liberate us from the sin, even of sometimes it makes us upset, or awkward, or uncomfortable.
Because as Card. André Vingt-Trois – archbishop of
„Christ didn’t come to accept the opinions of the majority or to adjust to the politically correct ideologies of His time. He did have much greater ambitions; He came to call sinners to repentance and holiness.”