Fr Thomas’ Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Integrity of the Disciples of Christ

The Taliban is notorious for cutting hands off as a form of punishment.  Cruel and repulsive as it is, similar expressions in the Bible will rightly be frowned upon.  Could Jesus have really said to cut off hands and feet, and to tear out eyes, as we read in Mark 9:42-48, to avoid sinning?

First of all, unlike the Taliban, Jesus did not ask his disciples to cut other people’s limbs off and it is horrible to think that Jesus would want his disciples to be amputees.  The Gospel passage in question is about how to conduct one’s own self to avoid sinning.  Our Lord wanted wholeness of life with total integrity for his disciples.  Therefore, Jesus used strong words to get the message across.

In the submarine deal between Australia and US, the leaders signed documents of agreement and shook hands. Deals are done with hands.  If your dealings with others cause any scandal or sin, metaphorically it is better to chop off that hand, meaning it is better to refrain from such dealings.  For the sake of spiritual integrity, it is better to forgo any profit from scandalous or sinful dealings.

Nelson Mandela titled his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom”.  ‘The feet that walks’ is a metaphor for personal freedom.  We live in a world which thinks that personal freedom is an absolute.  But no personal freedom is to be at the expense of spiritual integrity.  “If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell”.  If your freedom compromises your integrity and causes you to stumble, be brave enough to curtail it for the sake of greater good.  Sadly, we see too many selfish protests in the name of personal freedom.

How you look at people matters.  Do you look at others to see how to be at their service or are your eyes fixed on how to take advantage of others?  Jesus said “if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell”.  Always look at others as God’s children so that you will not disregard the integrity of Christian discipleship.

Leadership ambition can lead to manipulative behaviour and the exclusion of those who do are not in your group.  John said, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38).  Here John is a representative of such control freaks.  Jesus told him not to freak out about not being in control.  Any service, even as little as giving a cup of water, is a positive thing in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus told his disciples to be fully focused on serving others, and thus keep the integrity as a disciple of Christ.