26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mk 9:38-48)
Aron Ralston is an American Engineer. In 2003, he went on a solo canyoneering trip. While he was descending, he dislodged a suspended boulder 800 pounds pinning his right wrist to the side of the canyon wall. He had not informed anyone of his hiking plans and he had no way to call for help.
For five days, he repeatedly tried to extricate himself but his efforts were futile. He was almost dehydrated. So he decided to amputate his forearm using a dull pocketknife to break free. It took one hour. Then he climbed out of the canyon; rappelled down a 65-foot wall and hiked 11 kilometers until hikers found him. They gave him food, water and alerted the authorities about the accident.
Had he not amputated his right arm, he would have bled to death. He made a choice to sacrifice his arm to survive and save his life.
In today’s gospel (Mk 9:38-48), Jesus gives a strong warning against jealousy, intolerance and giving scandal to the young. He emphasized the need for sacrifice for a greater good. If your hand or leg cause you to sin, cut if off.
This expression is not to be taken literally. Jesus uses a hyperbolic expression to make a special point: the need for detachment and disconnection. St. Paul uses the term “circumcision of the heart.” It is not physical but interior, inward operation requiring cutting off, dissecting or amputating bad habits or sinful ways to be a better disciple.
Our readings can teach us 3 Lessons:
- Encouragement. We are invited to encourage others, not to get envious or jealous of them. We are to pull others up; not put them down. Our first reading and our gospel cautions us against this attitude of having crab mentality. Jesus is clear “whoever is not against us is for us.”
- Enthusiasm. We need to put joy and enthusiasm in whatever we do whether it is our job, our daily duties, prayer or service. Sometimes we become fault-finders, grumblers, complainers or killjoy. But we can choose to be enthusiastic and excited; passionate and afire in what we do. Our passion pushes us through difficulties and failures. It gives us the capability not to give up. Moreover, it gives us faith that the little we do matter even just giving a drink or giving a smile to someone.
- Example. We are to give good examples not scandalize the little ones. In Brazil, here is a 34-year-old young man, Guido Schaffer, whom they are considering to be a saint. He is a medical doctor, a surfer and a seminarian. He died surfing in 2009 in Rio de Janiero. Yet he is a man of faith, passionate for God’s Word and sensitive to the poor. One of his friends said of him: “you can be young, like the beach, surf, sing; at the same time have your heart set on God, being a witness to him in front of people, being an example of Christian life.
Today, Jesus invites us to be magnanimous; to be big and kind-hearted. He invites us to encourage others; be moral boosters; pull up people, not put them down. He wants us to be enthusiastic and passionate in whatever we do. Give good examples to others. Let us be like candles. We give light.
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