|by Angela Lambert|
September 27th, 2015, 2015; 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 NAB
At that time, John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
Jesus says in Matthew 7:16 “You will know them by their fruits.” Hearts open to God bear good fruit. The apostles were upset that others were casting out demons but Jesus reminds them once again that in His kingdom we do not have to compete against one another for position. Everyone is called to union with God and this union always produces charitable works. Christ could tell these men were authentic because of the fruit they were bearing. St. Teresa of Avila used this as a litmus test for the authenticity of prayer as well. She did not base her estimation of prayer on her feelings or experiences but rather on the virtue it produced afterward.
God and sin are incompatible. Sin, by definition, is a rejection of God and God keeps His promise to respect the free will He bestowed on us at our creation. Our union with God therefore depends entirely upon our will. Those areas of our heart that we open up to God He fills, and those areas we keep closed off He respects. This may be why many describe it as feeling like a hole in their heart. Most of us are a mixed bag with some areas filled with Christ and other areas we keep closed off.
The joy of heaven however stems from a heart filled completely with God, total union. My all-time favorite book portraying the interior drama we experience as we wrestle with desire for God and attachment to sins is C.S. Lewis’ work The Great Divorce. Lewis imaginatively illustrates the complete divorce of Heaven and Hell/ the incompatibility between God and sin. He opens with a quote by George MacDonald which echoes the words of Christ in this Sunday’s Gospel. He writes:
|No, there is no escape. There is no heaven with a little of hell in it, no plan to retain this or that of the devil in our hearts or our pockets. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather.|
Lewis goes on to illustrate the way in which we rationalize our attachments and how if we become too stubborn in them, we can find ourselves rejecting heaven altogether to maintain one sin. Jesus uses strong language when He says to cut off whatever is causing you to sin. The truth is, there are some attachments and some sins that we nurse along rationalizing that it’s not that big of deal. Yet, each sin we hold on to prevents full union with God.
St. Augustine articulated it well in his account of his own conversion. In his book Confessions, he tells of when he had accepted Christ’s Truth intellectually, but wasn’t yet ready to live by Christ’s precepts. He remembers with humble honesty his prayer, “Grant me chastity and continency, but not yet.” He wanted to follow Christ, but he didn’t want to give up indulging his lust. After hearing of the heroic acts of the lives of the saints as well as of contemporary martyrs, Augustine was ashamed of his weakness. To add to the humiliation, after breaking up with his concubine, (whom he had a son with), she vowed to remain celibate out of love for him and kept that vow. Augustine however caved to his lust and felt his slavery when he could not keep the same promise. He finally begged God truly to free him and in that moment of willful surrender God healed him. Augustine received the grace to detach from lust and could then experience the fullness of love.
In his homily to religious in Philadelphia, Pope Francis reflected on St. Katharine Drexel’s response to Christ’s call and the need for each of us to share that same vision:
|“One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world.”|
We all have a mission from Christ. Like St. Augustine, we must surrender those holes in our hearts to the Lord to heal with His grace, that we too might follow Him and bear great fruit.
- Most sins fall under one of three categories: A vice we love and don’t want to give up, an attachment to something other than God that we rationalize, or a blind spot we don’t see about ourselves. Reflect on what is preventing you from full union with God in each of these categories. How does it undermine or hinder your ability to live the mission Christ has given you?
- Consider the fruit of taking time for prayer, attending Mass, or going to Confession. Do you see a difference in your ability to be more kind, patient, understanding, strong, or persevere that day? How might making prayer a regular habit enrich your relationship with others better?
- Ask Christ what His mission is for you. Try to listen openly. He has a mission for each person in every state of life.
- Christ loves every human person, who are the people in your life that you can be Christ to?
- Consider this quote from Mother Teresa: “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Pray for Christ to heal you of a sin you are struggling with. Pray that He will give you the strength to overcome it and to detach you from a desire for it. (note: detachment from sin is also a sacramental grace of Confession and the Eucharist)
- Every time I have asked God to show me one of my blind spots He has answered with a “yes”. I have now learned to pray that He at least just show me one at a time! If you are courageous enough, ask Christ to reveal one of your blind spots to you.
- (I also like to ask for the grace to receive that knowledge with humility, hope, and trust in God’s grace so I won’t be discouraged.)
- Read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. It’s unforgettable!
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015
|* These Sunday meditations are intended to engage the heart and imagination in prayer and include a practical application (resolutions) to your daily life. In our presentation on prayer I offer a more detailed discussion of ways to pray with Scripture that can take 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or half an hour and vary in depth depending on your time-frame and prayer goals.|
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