The autumn equinox has just passed. We are about as far as we can be, in liturgical time, from Easter.
This Sunday, the 26th In Ordinary Time, we continue our reading of Mark’s Gospel.
The disciples in the Gospel are journeying to Easter but they do not know it, and they seem in no fit state to enter the Mystery of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. And no wonder, for Mark says they flee, and in some of the manuscripts of his Gospel we do not get words about their return!
John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’
But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.
‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.
‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’
Here are challenging words from Jesus, but words spoken to unite the disciples with himself. They are powerful words, challenging words to those who know their propensity to sin, and to sin in habitual ways. But if we hear the words and use them to do violence against ourselves, let’s be careful. If our foot causes us to sin are we less likely to sin because we have only one foot. We might hobble to our sin, but hobble we are likely to do! Amputation is not the solution to our problems. But the threat of it might be a wake-up call to the gravity of sin and the need for cure
Jesus calls us to unity and trust. We will sin, sadly, but he is the remedy for sin And in his healing, rather our harming, is our hope for wholeness and holiness.
The disciples squabble with others over who has the power – last week we heard of them squabbling between themselves over which of them had most authority. Jesus calls us to simplicity and service, all of us, always.
- Who do I find myself in competition with? Is the competition healthy or unhealthy?
- What work for unity might I do today?
Inscription and memorial from Gestapo prison in Cracow, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.