Paying the Price
A story is told about a King who gave out a challenge to all his subjects. He announced that anyone who can cross a river full of crocodiles will be rewarded. The winner can choose either One Billion Dollars or the hand of his beautiful daughter – the princess of the kingdom.
On hearing it, the people were challenged. The thought of glory and wealth brought great excitement on every corner of the kingdom. But nobody volunteered because the challenge was just too difficult. The river was so wide and the crocodiles were hungry and wild.
One day, however, a man leaped on the cold and dangerous waters of the river. He swam so fast that the crocodiles were not able to catch him. He succeeded in crossing to the other side! The king, then, rewarded him for such an incredible feat. “What will you choose?” asked the king – One Billion Dollars or the hand of my beautiful daughter?
The guy replied: “I have no need of your rewards, O king. I just want to know.. who pushed me to jump into the river?”
One lesson we can learn from this Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 9:38-48) is Paying the Price. Jesus tells us, his disciples, of a very challenging demand. To paraphrase his words, He says: If your hand causes you to sin or your foot lead you to evil, cut it off. Better go maimed or crippled in heaven than be in hell. If your eye will lead you astray, pluck it out. Better go blind than lose your soul.
Definitely, Jesus did not mean these words to be literal. He was actually using a hyperbole to make a point about sin. As in other teachings of Jesus, he would use exaggerated and forceful language to make an unforgettable image in the mind of his listeners. In history, though, Church historian Eusebius of Ceasarea (263-339 AD) reported that Origen – a brilliant writer and 3rd century Christian thinker castrated himself after reading Mt. 19:12. Being the son of the martyr St. Leonides, he played a great influence on Greek monasticism. This was never the point of Jesus.
Jesus wanted to teach us two things:
1. There is a need to pray the price to enter heaven.
In a similar way, if one would like to enjoy, relax and see a movie, one has to pay the entrance fee. Last week, I was invited to a blessing of a new condominium at Fuente Osmena. It is just beside Crown Regency – the tallest building in Cebu City. The condo’s location is on the 27thfloor way up above the skies. As I observed, it is not very spacious but its very elegant with two bedrooms, a sala and kitchen. Its exhilarating height gives you a panoramic view of Mactan Island and the sea. How much does it cost? P12.5 Million. Heaven costs even more!
There are certain demands to go to heaven. We need certain spiritual attitudes. Jesus speaks of sacrifice and self denial. He strikes us deeply by suggesting that whatever causes us to sin should be removed in us. He cautions us to cast away what is causing us to sin and even sever the connection. It can also mean taking ourselves out of the situation because for Jesus spiritual health is more important than physical wellbeing.
2. There is a need to choose a greater good.
In order to choose Jesus, we need faith and love. Faith is needed to believe that we have chosen rightly. It is believing that God will reward our choice. We also need love. Much love is needed for us to overcome courageously all the demands of following Jesus. Love bears all things, believes all things and endures all things. Love never fails.
October 1st is the feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. She found, in her own little way, a path of childhood that will lead to heaven. She chose the path of love. In her autobiography “The Story of a Soul,” she wrote: “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.” For her, it was enough to “rejoice to be little because only children will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.” Such is her path of childhood and her way of love.
Let us ask Jesus to shower us with more faith and love so that we can pay the price for heaven.