Mk 9:38-48 Out on a Limb
Jesus said, “If your hand 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 foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna... Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna.”
If I had to lose a limb for every sin, then I am sure I would end up with just my earlobe!
I am not kidding. And I am not alone.
As we continue to believe that it takes little to no effort to get into heaven, the Lord, in a very dramatic way, reminds us that we do have “a part to give" in our salvation.
As we continue to “lower the bar” in order to appease everyone, the Lord continues to raise His bar up, ever so forcefully, so that we never take our salvation or His sacrifices for granted.
When I was meditating again on today’s Gospel passage, I asked myself why the Lord exaggerated so much. But then, I realized he wasn’t exaggerating. He was being sarcastic.
I will do whatever it takes! Christ knows us. He knows us well. He knows to what lengths we will go to get what we want. Take for example the young football player who is more than willing to take steroids to get on the team. “I will do whatever it takes to get on this team!” And take the not-so-young football player who will take steroids to stay on the team. “I will do whatever it takes to stay on the team!” Why do you think the Olympic committee banned performance enhancing drugs? Because athletes would do whatever it took to win the gold medal!
We all know young teens will starve themselves to death to get the perfect body! “I don’t care! It’s worth it!” We are just know learning that College students will take ADHD medication or even Alzheimer drugs to stay focused, get the competitive edge and get an A+. “It’s all worth it…for my career.” And there are parents (not doctors) who are doing it for them.
We will do whatever it takes to be successful, competitive and comfortable. Even a single mom may end her pregnancy to further her education, reputation and make life just a little less complicated. "You murdered the one who offers you no resistance" (cf. James 5:6).
Can we blame the Lord for saying what he said? If you are willing to do all these things for yourself, then why not cut off your hand and foot to get into heaven? Why not? Unless…it’s not worth it to you.
What is Heaven worth to you? Is it worth more than a career, an education, extra playing time, your body?
The Lord is not against sacrifice. And He knows we are more than capable of making sacrifices. His problem is not that we sacrifice; His problem is with why we sacrifice. When I say “It’s worth it!”, am I not really saying: “I’m worth it?”
Do I sacrifice out of selfishness or do I sacrifice out of selflessness?
Am I willing to sacrifice my morals, my values, my faith for titles, privileges, and greater fame and fortune? If so, then the Lord tells us that it is better to lose your hands and feet!
After all, He did.
Better to lose a hand…lose a foot. The Lord was not only being sarcastic; He was being prophetic. He chose His words very carefully. This morning, when I looked at my crucifix, I noticed how the Lord lost his hands and feet. On the cross, He is saying, “It’s worth it”, but what He's really saying to me is: “YOU are worth it!”
It’s time to cut ourselves away from our pride, vanity and sensuality. It’s time to lose the chains of sin.
If we are willing to do whatever it takes to extend our career; to get noticed; to be successful, then why not do whatever it takes to obtain eternal life?
Better to lose a limb, then to lose a soul. Better to sacrifice your life than to take a life. Better to love unconditionally than to live unconditionally.