A short time after I got my driver’s license, my parents were gracious enough to loan me their car when I went out with friends... But one condition was that I had to keep them informed as to where I was—in addition to obeying the traffic laws.
That required a cell phone...and my first phone could be described as like a car battery with a phone attached... It had to have weighed three or four pounds—and it was far too big to it in my jeans pockets. Thank goodness cargo pants with the giant pockets were in style at the time, so I had a place to carry this thing...
And one evening, I was at a party with some friends—and my cell phone rang... Right then, I knew who was calling—and why... I hadn’t checked in with mom and dad.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared at me as I answered my phone. No one else had a cell phone at this time. And when I told them it was my mom, I became the butt of all jokes for the rest of the night...
If my cell phone was any kind of a status symbol, it symbolized that I had protective parents.
And in spite of the embarrassment I suffered, I was blessed to be loved that much. Yes, I’m a child of protective parents, but I’m also the child of a protective God.
That’s something to keep in mind as we hear Jesus’ harsh words from our Gospel for today. Jesus speaks of drowning people with millstones. He’s telling us to cut off our arms and feet and tear out our eyes. And this is the only time in the entire Gospel of Mark that Jesus speaks of hell—and in very graphic detail, no less...
But make no mistake: these are words of love, but a tough love. Love must be tough when it comes to the problem of sin...
As much as we’d like to think that everything’s okay with our lives, things are not okay.
Sin is a deadly poison inside every one of us. It drives us to make gods of ourselves, with no other authority to answer to other than our own needs and wants. When sin is in control, we have no regard for how our actions affect others—and maybe even our own selves. It begets fear and misery; it blinds us to the reality of God’s love, and ultimately leads us to death.
Thankfully, God forgives our sin—before we even ask for it. When we’re baptized, our sins are washed away and God sees them no more. Sin no longer rules over us. But sin’s deadly poison remains—and with every passing day, we struggle against it.
Because of that, Jesus says, “If your hand or your foot or your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” With these words, Jesus challenges us to take a serious look at our lives and ask ourselves: “what in my life is leading me to sin and standing in the way of my relationship with God? What in my life must I cut off and throw away so that I may live more fully in the gracious love of Jesus Christ?”
If we take a look at our lives, we will find that there are many evil presences that lead us to temptation. These presences may not be evil in and of themselves, but their presence serves to block out God’s presence and entice us to sin. And the only way to keep ourselves from the temptations they present is to cut them right out of our lives.
Is there anything in your life that you love too much? Do the things that stress you out and worry you and make you afraid really matter to your life and relationship with God? Are there things in your life that you believe you could not live without—but deep down inside yourself you know you could? Much of what we seek after for a fulfilled and meaningful life only serves to stand in the way of God’s presence. If they stand between us and God, these things must go. But we do so not under a threat, but under a promise. We cut off and throw away so as to be free of all the negativity and worry these things create, so that we can devote ourselves to doing what matters to God and experiencing God’s peace.
Last weekend, I read a fascinating article about the tiny house movement. In this age of rising costs and stagnant wages, a growing number of people are downsizing their homes to live in spaces as tiny as a small RV. It would seem as though these people would be sacrificing simple breathing space, in addition to giving up room for their possessions. It would seem as though these people would be grieving a terrible loss.
But no one interviewed in the article had any regrets. Yes, they had to make sacrifices—yet they were now free of high utility bills and mortgage payments and the extra work required for maintaining a larger home. They were in a better position to enjoy that which was truly important to them—without the stress and worry that came with keeping a larger home.
This is what Jesus is talking about when he speaks of cutting off and throwing away.
Forgiveness is all about freedom—and that is what Jesus wants for you today. God’s will is for you to be free of all the misery and the worry and the fear that sin creates in your life, so that you may walk with him daily and live in his goodness. The battle against sin is a hard one—but Jesus won the fight, and so can we...
So we cut off and throw away what really has no eternal value to be filled to the full with all the treasures of God’s great love.