Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Ruben Villalon
Reading 1: Nm. 11:25-29
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14
Reading 2: Jas. 5:1-6
Alleluia: Jn. 17:17b, 17a
Gospel: Mk. 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
One of the stories I like most in the Old Testament is the encounter between God and Moses on Mount Tabor. We have heard this story many times, Moses sees a tree that is not consumed by fire and comes to see it, it is at that moment where he listens for the first time to the voice of God, who tells him, Moses, “Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).
What does this story have to do with today’s readings? Well, Jesus tells us, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off; if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Mk. 9:43). It seems a very radical option; if we follow to the letter this imperative verb of Jesus little by little we would lose all the parts of our body. Because the fact that we are sinners and we tend to search for sin. However, I believe that Jesus does not mean that we should mutilate our body to stop sinning.
Origen did not become a saint because he made something similar to what Jesus said in the Gospel today, “If a member of your body causes you to sin, cut it off” Origen cut off a part of his body because it was an occasion of sin to him, not a good idea. I’m not going to tell you what he did, you can investigate it yourself.
In the other hand, Moses took off his sandals to enter holy ground. This is what Jesus is telling us today; remove your tendency to sin, remove from your hearts with the grace of God all those things that prevents you from living in grace and holiness. Cut off any relationship that leads you to a sinful life and so on. The fruits of a life of grace can be traced in the first reading with Moses. We hear how Moses is not envious. Envy kills the soul and poisons it, but what is envy?
“Envy is a capital sin. It refers to the sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate desire to acquire them for oneself, even unjustly. When it wishes grave harm to a neighbor it is a mortal sin” (CCC. 2539).
The tenth commandment tells us that, “You shall not covet. Anything that is your neighbor’s. You shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Well, this is what Jesus asks us to cut off from its roots. the disordered appetites that lead us to sin. Because when we desire what does not belong to us, we open the door to all kinds of sinful manifestations that are a vehicle of evil. The Catechism teaches us that the tenth commandment prohibits:
“Greed and the desire to amass earthly goods without limit. It forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power. It also forbids the desire to commit injustice by harming our neighbor in his temporal goods,” (CCC. 2536).
When we try to live the law of God in our lives it is when we cut off the actions that lead us to sin. We cut little by little the disordered appetites that incline us to evil. The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the heart. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells us that what comes out of the Heart (because of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies and slander) is what contaminates man, (Matthew 15: 18-19 ).
Moses did not envied the action of the Spirit of God in other people. While John and the disciples of Jesus did want to forbid a man to do good things out of envy. This person did not belonged to the group of the twelve, but nevertheless through his prayer did things that even for the disciples were difficult. Expelling demons in the name of Christ requires an unshakeable faith, a firm conviction of the spiritual battle, a life of impeccable prayer and mortification, and trust in God above all things. So envy is not good under any circumstances, it is not good in matters of faith, it is not good in matters of material possessions, and it is not good in physical matters either. We can say that Moses was a free person, while the disciples had not yet achieved that maturity.
The best antidote to fight against envy is:
- Accept yourself, including imperfections and qualities; in that way we will accept other peoples values, qualities and achievements.
- Do not compare egocentrically with others, nor allow other peoples judgment on us be the guide our life’s. Only if we need to grow in some deficiency, we can take and advice.
- To cultivate one’s self-denial to serve others, to grow in humility and to better value those people who live around us.
- We need to grow in magnanimity, greatness of the spirit, to eradicate all feelings of inferiority.
- Love others, so that their progress, their qualities and their successes are seen as a reason for us to joy with them.
- To know oneself loved by God, keeping in mind that the human person is the only creature on earth that God has loved for what it is, “His image and likeness.”
That is what we need to cut of from our lives and not parts of our body.