● ● Psalm ___ ● ● + Mark 9:38-48 ●
Title: Foot. Hand. Eye. / Motivation. Generation. Imagination
Imagine you have an ideal day a perfect day planned for yourself, which would allow you to do what you ACTIVITIES want, and when you want, and with whom you want for a 24-hours span.
This past Thursday, I had such an ideal day ahead of me. And I'm blessed and fortunate to say that nothing was standing in my way, and nothing did stand in my way. For this 2021 reunion I had with some old friends, we were outside most of the day on a beautiful day. And then we had a meal together. We talked into the night about old times. In fact, we told the same stories that we told last year at this time.
And I expect we are going to do the whole thing again next year with some of the exact same stories. I’m I'm going to mark my calendar and save the date.
This ideal day was a very good day. Have you noticed that when you have such an ideal day, a perfect day, certain things either go a little bit more smoothly or you just make them go a bit more smoothly. Because on my “ideal” day, I am less worried about minor details … as long as I get to my destination.
I think this also relates to the Gospel message about our response to temptations..in this Jesus our Lord wants to reach our final destination with him.
[__02_] [3 ASPECTS] I would like to touch on 3 aspects of an ideal – or perfect – as they relate to the Gospel. These are:
(1) What “MOTIVATES” me on an IDEAL day?
(2) What do I “GENERATE” on ideal day?
(3) What is my “IMAGINATION” on ideal day?
So, this is about MOTIVATION – GENERATION – IMAGINATION.
I’d like to connect each of these to the 3 warnings about SIN / TEMPTATION in the Gospel, in other words to the FOOT -- HAND – EYE in the Gospel.
[__03_] Have you heard this Gospel before? Have you heard this and perceived this as an outdated / ancient statement of some ancient code of law in a far-off culture, or a galaxy far far away … that this is no longer applicable to our modern sensibility.
[__04_] [DISCLAIMER] I believe we can and should be careful about what Jesus is saying. There are people in our community – or family – who struggle with terrible temptations, self-harm, self-mutilation, harming themselves.
And this is not of the gospel, the gospel is not endorsing self harm or self-mutilation or cutting in any way.
[__05_] [DEFENSE / OBEDIENCE] Nevertheless, using language related to the FOOT – the HAND – they EYE – He is urging us to meet the “OFFENSES” of temptation and sinfulness with a spiritual “DEFENSES” that are proportional to the offense coming against us.
Jesus Himself gives us the example of a “PROPORTIONAL” response to sinfulness in that he does become a person both human and divine, and as such a person he is perfect in his obedience to our Heavenly Father.
So…just as we have been - in our own sinfulness – disobedient to God ..he is obedient. So, even before there was the cross as a punishment imposed by Pontius Pilate, he was already willing to carry for and serve a much higher divine authority.
He is giving us a model to follow so that we will not just be selectively “on guard / defense” when it’s convenient but that will be “sacrificially” defensive when it is difficult.
Jesus teaches us about these temptations – referring to the FOOT – HAND – EYE – so that we can be on guard against temptation.
[__06_] [FEET / MOTIVATED]
1st the FEET. And being ‘motivated’ motivation. One of the memories of my ideal day was I was really motivated to get out of bed in the morning, I woke up earlier, like a full hour earlier than I normally wake up because I was going to have a perfect day. My feet were motivated. My feet were moving. Because I was going to do what I wanted to do.
the next day, 24 hours later, not so much.
How did I feel the very next day? Was I similarly motivated? I must admit: No !
I am I am more motivated when I get to do what I want to do when things go my way. I am attached to that. I don’t have to be … but allow myself to be. So, that is part of my sinfulness.
I am so much more motivated when things are going my way. I sometimes have to do things that I don't want to do or see people that I don't want to see.
But, on such I day, I could be praying – should be praying – the 119th psalm: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
But, sometimes, it is quite the opposite… the motivation does not come from God but comes from elsewhere. Do I – do you – walk with hang out with people – online or in person – who are not genuinely not This happens to both young people and grown-up’s who may give in to peer pressure.
Have you ever given into peer pressure? Have you allowed this to be draw you to walk or go someplace?
There are people that we hang out with who are not good for us. And sometimes we're called to take a stand against them to stand up to them with our feet. That's hard to do.
It means we're cutting ourselves off from not only a person but also a “MOTIVATION”
Jesus is saying it's better for us to find our way into heaven without our feet. In other words, it's better for us to find our way into heaven without our motivations without all our personal motivations than to go to hell with all of our motivations.
[__07_] [HANDS / GENERATED] 2nd. Hands. What is generated.
Jesus says better for us to enter into heaven, free of all the things we have generated by our hands.
I myself can be very proud of what I generate by my hands. I can dig with my hands, I can send text messages with my hands. I can even send emails to other people – who work on the parish staff and team and work here…and ask them to do things. I can be very “proud” and connected to what my hands can do.
My desire to generate and to do often overwhelms my inclination to give thanks to God.
I fail to render unto God what belongs to God, I render what belongs to me.
And I fail to recognize what God has generated, I fail to give thanks to God for my talents. I don’t even give thanks to Caesar. I want it all ! And while God doesn't want to remove my hands, actually, he just wants me to give thanks for the work of his hands. And this is difficult because I want to give credit to myself, but it will heal me and help me to stand up to temptation, when I'm not so focused on what I generate, when I will cut off my connection to my hands.
[__08_] [EYE / IMAGINATION]
The eye equals imagination. That is, the eye represents what we gave at, what we look at.
Each of us has a gaze each of us has a vision of the world and sometimes we see the world in ways that can lead us into sinfulness can lead us into sins of greediness, vanity, lustfulness.
What am I looking at? I'm not suggesting that you would disfigure your eye, but we can all be changed for the better by turning our gaze away, or making a concerted effort to turn our gaze away from things that may seem to possess us.
Do an excessive imagination about things I want to buy? Or own? Do those things possess me?
Do I have an excessive imagination about even my own desire for wealth? Does that possess me?
Do I have an excessive imagination about my opinions? do those opinions possess me?
The eye – the imagination – also a place where the OFFENSE of temptation is strong because of our many electronic devices – phones, tablets, computers…wi-fi everywhere.
To you, young adults, teenagers especially. You are at a tender age where you will receive many images and impressions which can inform or form – even deform – your imagination.
Yes, the Gospel is your DEFENSE …but your own family can also be your DEFENSE.
I implore you to disconnect yourself from your devices, your tablets, your phones, your computer completely – every night.
Putting your phone on airplane mode for a few hours at night is not enough. It is a proportional response to the temptations of all the indecent images, all the things that are roaming around the internet, right now. It is not a proportional response because you can easily swipe in and out of airplane mode.
What is the proportional response? It is the removal of your phone for several hours, for all of your night time and sleeping hours. The proportional response to the temptation would be to turn your phone over to your mother or your father or your grandparents or to some grown up for the entire night. This is the proportional response to temptation that will help you to get a good night's sleep. That's what you need. That's what we all need.
Friends, this is the gospel. And Jesus is simply giving us these messages, not as an ancient code of law that doesn't apply anymore, but as a message that can apply to us in our own general understanding of what do we generate? What am I attached to? What is motivating me? Is it really the things of God that motivate me? And what am I imagining because sometimes my imagination can lead me into temptation.
We come to church to pray so that our hearts may be at rest and at peace. But, our hearts are not at peace if that peace is determined by my personal “generation” or productivity …or by my personal motiviation.
Our hearts will be at peace with a new sense of imagination and the image of God in the Gospel. As St. Augustine wrote – about the sure defense which is ours – “our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (Confessions, ch. 1)