Grace to you!
If you read James 5:1-6 and the Gospel of Mark 9:41-50, you will have no doubt as to how the bible looks at sin such as greed, envy, lust, sloth, gluttony, pride, anger, etc. In our Christian understanding, sin is a moral evil.
Those thoughts, words and actions that do not promote true love of God and neighbor; those choices we make that are contrary to the Divine Law are sin. Sin is terrible. It’s not in our best interest, at least in the long run.
The writer of the Letter of James used a very graphic imagery to show how the sin of greed leads to destruction (Jas 5:1-6). Greed does much harm to society. In the end, it catches up with the culprit. Blessed is anyone who has figured out how to fight greed, and other temptations to any sin, head-on.
In the Gospel of Mark 9:41-50, the Lord Jesus Christ warns against the lure of sin and its dangers. He shows us also how to deal with temptation to sin and how to fight it head-on. Though some theologians, “of niceness” or “feel good,” say the text is too violent or graphic to be quoted and shouldn’t be part of biblical values. I reply: It’s actually calling a spade a spade. When it comes to sin, frank talk is desirable.
It's when, for instance, we understand the appalling nature of greed, hate, sexual abuse, racism or any other vice, could we be firm in our determination to reject its lures and denounce its practice. Because we are weak and easily prone to fall, many of us need that “shocking” reawakening to keep us on guard.
The Lord asks us to confront sin head-on. No room for dilly-dallying. Thus, though the language of Mark 9:41-50 may sound violent. It’s not to be understood literally, but figuratively, while retaining the force of the urgency of its moral call to action.
Jesus said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut if off” . . . If your foot causes you to sin, cut if off . . . and if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” Each of these is matched with an alternative—eternal life is of greatest value to being physically blind or maimed. (cf. Mark 9:42-47).
Certainly, the Lord isn’t calling you to hurt any part of your body. Do no such thing. What, then, is Jesus teaching us in this text? The following are my thoughts on it.
First, it’s for us to see clearly how dangerous sin is to us. I understand many people downplay the impact of sin. Please do not be deceived into thinking sin doesn’t matter. It does. Heaven is for real and hell is for real. This isn’t some old, obsolete theology. It’s divine truth clearly stated in God’s Word.
Second, these three imageries show three of the main sources of temptation. There are sins committed through the hands. This symbolizes evil acts that come through the use of the hand or touching such as illicit sexual acts, fraudulent documentations, murder, physical violence, etc.
There are temptations to sin symbolized by the use of the leg. Those leg-works that are evil, including claiming what doesn’t belong to us, greed, standing in the way of peace and love, being a stumbling block to justice, truth and goodness, and evil manipulations.
Third are the sins that come through the eyes—such as looking, staring, scanning, spying or searching that do not glorify God. In our today’s world, the Internet and visual technologies are chief sources of temptation.
Jesus’ proposal could, therefore, be seen as this: Avoid the occasions of sin. Don’t touch stuff that lead to sin. Don’t go where you know you will sin. Do not take a look at what will deprive you of the joy of the Lord.
There is an age-long Catholic tactic for avoiding sin—begin with avoiding the occasions of sin. It’s the first step to victory over sin inspired by the grace of God. Other practices to life of virtue follow.
So, is there a thing, a situation, an occasion (or even a person) that makes you sin? “Cut it off.” That is, avoid it and you will not fall. Do not say you are strong enough to handle it when you are already drowning. Remember, it is better to retreat when you can than to foolishly die in the battlefield because of foolhardiness.
Yes, we are saved by God’s grace and we overcome sin through this saving grace. Yet, the saying is true, “Heaven helps those who help themselves.”
Praying for the courage to make the right choice in life and live virtuously by grace. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Today's bible reading Thursday, Week 7 Ordinary Time: James 5:1-6; Mark 9:41-50]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.