James 5:1-6; Psalm 49:14-20;Mark 9:41-50
7th Week in Ordinary Time
If your hand causes you to sin … (Mark 9:43)
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus offers words of hope to repeat offenders—that’s all of us who fall into the same sins again and again. We may not recognize it as a hopeful word, though, unless we hit the “pause” button right here in the middle of verse 9:43 (and in verses 45 and 47). So before racing on to what Jesus says about amputating wayward hands, feet, and eyes, let’s linger over that verb: to cause to sin.
In the Greek in which the Gospel was written, this phrase means to place an obstacle that causes someone to stumble. That sounds like something an enemy would do, doesn’t it? But as we have all experienced, we do it to ourselves. By the way we act (symbolized by the hand), the places we go (the feet), and the things we let into our lives (the eyes, the windows to the soul), we often sabotage our best intentions and go astray from God’s plan.
We don’t have to remain in this conflicted state! Jesus wants us to know the joy and peace that come from living with integrity—with every part of us working together and open to God’s grace. Despite harsh-sounding words like “cut it off” and “pluck it out,” he is not telling us to mutilate or abuse our bodies. The human body is his Father’s handiwork, and Jesus spent his life restoring people’s bodies to wholeness! Remember, he has just healed a withered hand, paralyzed feet, and blind eyes (Mark 3:1-6; 2:1-11; 8:22-26).
So why does Jesus use such strong language? Because he wants to jolt us into getting the message: Sin is deadly. It separates you from the love and life God offers you. Take action! That action might be a small thing, like cutting short a conversation that is tending toward gossip. Or it might involve radical self-denial, a spiritual amputation that’s necessary to save a life. Whatever it is, Jesus stands ready to help us see and do the next thing that will bring us closer to him. Let’s do it!
“Jesus, your word says, ‘Present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness’ (Romans 6:13). Show me how to live that out today.”~WAU