Homily for the twenty-sixth Sunday of the year - Year B - Mk. 9:38...48


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"John said to Jesus, 'Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.' But Jesus said, 'Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.


" 'For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.


" 'And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' "





Homily:


"John said to Jesus, 'Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.' But Jesus said, 'Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.' "


The passage from the Gospel we read this Sunday begins with a conversation between Jesus and John: the latter, who had been sent on his mission with the other disciples, reports to the Master concerning a man who had done a good deed by driving out demons in the name of Jesus, but who seemed in the eyes of John to be a rather perverse man, since he did not belong to the disciples of Jesus. In short, John is truly scandalized, and he openly says so to the Lord.


What is scandal? According to its Greek etymology, scandal is an obstacle on which one might stumble. Scandal can arise in two ways: the most common occurs when someone who seems to be a good person does an evil and reprehensible act; the other, which we do not always recognize to be a scandal, occurs when someone who seems to be a more or less bad or perverse person does something that only a good person would normally do. In one way or another, there is a complete disproportion between the person and the act he does.


John is scandalized: he has stumbled on this obstacle. John did not consider this event on its true level, that of faith. It is only by speaking with the Master, by listening to the divine Word, that John understands what he should have done in that situation. United to Christ, listening to the Word of God in faith, the favorite disciple of Jesus now realizes the entire significance of this event. Later, in the light of the Holy Spirit, he will understand all this even better. In particular, he will see that any scandal can be overcome only in union with the Son of God, he who will be, on the path of every man and woman, an occasion to fall (cf. Lk. 2: 34), "a stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall" (1 Peter 2:8), "a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Cor. 1:23).


" 'For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.' "


What is a cup of water? Under the hot sun of Palestine, it is certainly a good that one would appreciate very much. However, this water will quickly be lost in perspiration, and it will soon be necessary to drink again, and again, and yet again... So it is not so much the cup of water that counts, but rather the intention of he who gives it to a thirsty person. If this intention is good, it can be enough, by itself, to earn its author the priceless good of eternal salvation!


Is this not a true scandal? There are so many people who suffer and who endure evils without number, hoping to go to Heaven one day, while others - they are few, it is true - who will have done little to receive the same reward! Let us remember the parable of the workers of the eleventh hour; those who were the first to begin working were scandalized when the Master wanted to give them the same wages as he did to those who had worked the least: "And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat....' " (Mt. 20:9-12)


The Lord is good, he is full of mercy and love! For a cup of water given in his name, he rewards generously, beyond what could ever be expected! But the Lord is no less the Judge who punishes and chastises justly he who not only commits a sin but who also leads others to offend God and men: "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea!"


" 'And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' "


The hand is a good thing, the foot is a good thing, the eye is a good thing. However, any thing, no matter how good it is, remains a means, and not an end in itself. The hand must be used as a means to worship God, and not to commit a sin. The same is true for the foot and the eye. All our body, all our being, all our person, all that we are or can be, it is all but a means to worship God.


At each moment of our life, we must be ready to entirely renounce ourselves in order to follow Jesus and to devote ourselves to him alone. It is only in union with Christ, the Word of God, it is only by imitating John who went to Jesus to speak to him about what scandalized him, that we will avoid being, for ourselves, a stumbling block, a scandal leading us to the gehenna of fire, the fire of hell which burns souls and bodies forever. If, with all our brothers, we form but one Body, that of which Christ is the Head, then this union in the Love of God and man will preserve us from the - very real - flames of hell!


Soon, we will receive the Body of Christ. Soon, we will receive from God the power to become children of God in union with his Son Jesus. Let us ask Mary, our Mother, to teach us how to walk without stumbling on the way of eternity, offering ourselves wholly to Christ, for the Glory of the Father!



To order the weekly homily immediately, click here