Date: Sunday, September 30, 2018
26th Sunday Ordinary Time B
John has too much time on his hands and he is a tattletale. He tells Jesus that someone is driving out demons and using Jesus’ name. “We tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus does not seem at all concerned. “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because belong to Christ, amen, I say will surely not lose his reward.” Who belongs to Christ? “Little ones” who simply believe and are not part of the in-group or favorite few.
Jesus has a far greater concern that he shares with John, namely, causing scandal. Better to have a millstone around your neck and thrown into the sea than to cause the “little ones” to sin. Jesus jars our contemporary sensibilities by saying: “If your hand causes you to sin cut it off.” In the Bible “hands and feet” symbolize purposeful activity. “Eyes” and “heart” are often paired together representing thought, will and emotion behind our actions. Whatever is hidden within us or whatever is apparent in our public behavior that causes harm to others and ourselves should be “cut off” or “plucked out.” All we need do is examine our hearts and behaviors. Can we lessen the deadly impulses of greed, lust, envy, jealousy, pride, anger and selfishness within that poison our dispositions and lead to sinful actions?
Jesus warns us what will happen if we don’t. We will end up in Gehenna! Gehenna is an ancient place of child sacrifice and, at the time of Jesus, a dump with the smoke and stench of smoldering garbage – “where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Jesus brings not only the Good News of our salvation but the warning of judgment and punishment. Our thoughts, desires and actions have consequences.