Last Sunday we heard Jesus say: “If anyone wishes to be first, they shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
And Deacon Jim challenged us all to be “little deacons” ready to do the grunt work of being servants to one another.
The Sunday before that, we heard Jesus say: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.”
And I challenged us to heed the advice of Jesus to Peter – to get behind him – to follow Jesus closely and learn from him.
And today we hear Jesus say: “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” – that is the abode of the damned in the afterlife --- what we refer to as-- hell.
Before we dismiss this just as an exaggeration of Jesus – or a ridiculous request --- we should first detect the pattern ---
Which is following after Jesus is costly – it’s not just something we can commit to and then go on living life as normal – there is sacrifice involved – so that we can be holy as God us holy --- but there is also greatness – eternal life spent in the presence Christ and all the saints
So yes, in a rather exaggerated way – more to shock us than scare us --- what Jesus is saying to us is if there IS ANYTHING standing in our way in making the sacrifices we all need to make in order to follow after him --- we must cut them out of our lives – rid ourselves of them in order to free us from those burdens we so often want to carry. . . so that we can better:
Think like God thinks – see what God sees, want what God wants--- and love as God loves. . .
Jesus specifically mentions our hands, our feet, and our eyes. And we should reflect on what each of these mean in hindering us in becoming holy, just as God is holy. . .
Sometimes our hands are used to grasp at things our egos want – but which might not be good for us – in-ordinate amounts of money, sex, power, or material possessions.
Stretching all the way back to the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve’s sin was grasping at the forbidden fruit – grasping at a life that God had not intended for them.
So if our hand causes us to sin – cut it off:
We must be willing to sever our grasping at things which are sinful and toxic to us – for they are not the things God wants for us for a good and holy life.
Jesus mentions our feet. Do our feet carry us behind Christ --- so that we can follow after him & learn from him --- instead of thinking that we are the leader?
St. Thomas Aquinas once said that if you want to find JOY – then you have to walk in the path that leads to God alone.
But what do most of us do?? We walk down so many errant paths which instead of bringing us joy – takes it from us. So many of our paths keep us isolated from real life-giving relationships with God and with one another.
So if our foot causes us to sin – cut it off. We have to sever all the ways we can choose that lead us from a joy-filled life --- and choose the narrow path that God wants us on--- which leads to eternal life.
Finally, Jesus mentions the eye – the organ of vision.
Jesus tells us in St. Matthew’s Gospel that the eye is the lamp of the body -- that our eyes are the entrance to our hearts and minds – and as such – they provide a doorway to our very soul.
Our entire lives are filled with choices of either turning toward the things of heaven – or of turning away from them --- but as followers of Christ – we are called to see as God sees – not as human beings do.
So if our eyes cause us to sin – pluck them out – we have to be willing to NOT look for joy or fulfillment or meaning or value – in all the wrong places—like the glamour, illusion, sparkly, shiny things of this passing world and set our hearts on the things that are eternal. For where our treasure is – there our hearts will be. . .
If our hand causes us to sin – cut it off. If our foot causes us to sin – cut it off. If our eye causes us to sin – pluck it out.
Jesus is teaching us that we have to approach our life with him seriously – there will be sacrifices to be made – crosses to bear – and humility to be embraced.
So maybe this is not an easy Gospel to listen to – but it’s necessary if we want to experience the fullness of life Jesus wants for us.
So each and every day – if we want to humbly serve our God and others --- we simply need to ask God to send us the gifts of the Holy Spirit –so that we can have the grace we need to identify the tendencies, the habits, the vices that need to be turned over to God – so that God can free us from them – and set us on the way that leads to eternal life.
Moments in time...