30 September 2018 / 26th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B
•• Numbers 11:25-29 •• Psalm 19 •• James 5:1-6 •• •• + Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
•• Title: No
[__01__] A few years ago, I got used to people talking on their cell (mobile) phones all the time. And, I was one of the talkers with a phone.
And, then, I had to get used to TEXTING, all the time, on the tiny alphanumeric keypads, sending little messages with my thumbs, letting my thumbs do the texting and talking.
About a week ago, I received one of these little messages that I am still not used to fully. I’m behind the curve with texting. I was invited to dinner and was told …” to join some friends for dinner, if I were available, I should be there by 6:30 pm”, if I were able to eat with them.
So, I sent a text message back, adding this unnecessary question. “Yes, I can be there, or … should I be there earlier than 6:30 pm – question mark ?”
I got another text, answer: NO.
I did not know what that meant, at first. What does “No” mean? “No” = equals there’s no dinner. “No” = don’t come.
I eventually figured it out that 6:30 pm is good, earlier than 6:30 pm is not necessary. I, however, found the NO response quite abrupt and uncivilized. We laughed about it later.
[__02.01_] / To follow Jesus involves saying YES, but also involves saying NO, at times. Not just texting NO, but saying NO and accepting certain limits and boundaries, not simply out of FEAR but also out of LOVE.
When we FAST or sacrifice or give something up willingly, we do not to say No to something that is inherently evil or bad, but to say No to something that is inherently good, for an even greater good.
For example, maybe we are saying No to TXTING, but – for me – that would not really be a fast /sacrifice.
Maybe, we are saying No to some entertainment or program or media, or saying No to the number of minutes or hours of news we consume.
Or, for those of us who may push ourselves a little too hard on homework or work in general, sometimes, saying NO means just going to sleep at a reasonable time rather than pulling an all-nighter.
We say No to something is good, for some greater good.
[__02.02__] Another example would be this -- consider all of us experience frustration and may respond or feel anger about something that has gone wrong or been done wrong.
And, sometimes, our anger is kickstarted by something that is genuinely evil, genuinely bad or wrong.
We cannot expect the anger to leave us magically like turning off a device or snapping our fingers. There may be good reasons to be angry, but when we “fast” from our “give up” anger, we are trying to give up the recriminations, the vengeance, the angry words, the bitterness, that can result if our life or anger remains unchecked or unexamined and could destroy us.
However, in some cases, the anger might be righteous and good and a justice.
[__02.03_] Jesus is teaching us in this Gospel about giving things up, even giving up our hands, or feet, or our eyes.
Who would do that?
Is there any precedent? Any reasonable comparison?
I suggest an imperfect comparison based on the idea that if we have a serious weakness or defect, we generally want – not to kick start it – but just to kick it, remove it, and move on.
Consider the “Achilles heel” and what mean by an “Achilles heel.”
The Achilles heel is that little tendon in the back of your ankle that I dread snapping it because it is a real pain to repair and heal from.
But, if I say I have an “Achilles heel” it means that I have some fault or fragility or weakness that could by my downfall.
And, so I either try to hide it or heal it. Hiding it is, often, Step # 1.
Let’s take the example of a person on a team with an Achilles heel – or weakness. His or her Achilles heel could be the downfall of the team. Consider New York Yankees’ baseball catcher Gary Sanchez. He is a catcher who seems to have trouble “catching” – that’s his Achilles heel. Nobody wants him in the game because he cannot catch.
So, if someone has a particular technical weakness, we call that the Achilles heel. If you can cure the Achilles heel, then everything is fine.
But, healing/curing the so-called heel – or healing the one thing is really troubling us – can be difficult.
And, Jesus gives us his mercy not to leave us where we are but to change, sometimes to give up our ways, change our ways, because it is better into life without the Achilles heel – or without a precious possession – than not to receive eternal life.
Jesus is comparing the hand, the foot, the eye to something we hold precious, a precious possession, a precious opinion I do not want to give up, a sin I do not want to repent of.
He is teaching us about the blessing of accepting his mercy so that we can change direction.
[__03__] First, the danger of doing little things wrong. Jesus gives us the example of the harshest of punishment, the millstone, the millstone around your neck or my neck, and you will be cast into the sea, if we were to lead a little one astray.
A little one could be a child, or any vulnerable person who we might lead astray. If I am unable to give up my own comfort for a greater good, I could be leading someone astray.
Sometimes, my inability or unwillingness to disagree with someone could lead him or her astray.
We are called to fast from self-satisfaction if the ‘satisfaction’ is only about me.
That’s the bad news. The millstone. But, there is good news here.
There is a contrast to the millstone and it has to do with water. With the millstone we are tossed into the water.
The other example is the drink of water. Jesus says: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will surely not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41)
In other words, it’s good to do little things right and good for others, even it is just a cup of water.
And, in this regard, we are imitating Jesus each day.
[__04__] We are doing what any mother or father or teacher – or anyone who loves a child would do --– would regard our own hands, would lay down their feet, or eyes, for someone vulnerable. Vulnerable = valuable..
And, Jesus risks himself to save us, to lay down his life and to make us members of his body.
St. Paul summarizes this in 1st Corinthians chapter 12, we are his hands, his feet, eyes, being Christ’s presence each day in the world. [__fin__]