The National Catholic Review

  Sunday's Gospel falls under the shadow of the second prediction of Jesus' death and resurrection.  By writing in this way, Mark wants the disciple of Jesus to look upon hardships and trials - the cross of the disciple - as things which should be understood to imitate both Jesus' sufferings and resurrection.  That is, ignorance (Jesus had to remove this by his teaching) and the seriousness of sin (Jesus was severe in his language about this) will reflect Jesus' sufferings and the victory over ignorance and sin will reflect Jesus' resurrection. 

  Jesus first argues that the person who uses his name successfully will not at the same time speak against him (or mislead people away from God).  That non-followers of Jesus were successful in doing miracles in Jesus' name does no harm to the company of disciples.  Giving life in Jesus' name shows how much God wants to bring the world back to Himself.  The givng of life, however, is through the use of Jesus' name; thus, Jesus remains the source and channel of God's blessings.  What Jesus wants his disciples to understand still more is that any person willing to use his name will not deny the role of Jesus in salvation.  Rather, by pointing to Jesus as the means of salvation the non-follower becomes a witness to the uniqueness of Jesus.  If one understands Jesus' teaching, he will gain the wisdom of Jesus, and that is akin to new life, resurrection.

  At 9,37 Jesus had asked, "What exchange might a person make for eternal life?"  Now, Jesus asks what limit might I put on the cost of gaining eternal life.  If one understands the semitic customs of Jesus' time, one understands that 'removing an eye, a hand, a foot' is only an imaginative way of insisting that I should do everything to avoid falling into sin.  Such vivid, even harsh language was customary in Jesus' time to get across the seriousness of a situation; no one in Jesus' time understood him to speak of a literal cutting off a hand or foot, of a literal plucking out an eye.  Indeed we know that these bodily elements are used by something else in the human choice to sin.  It is there that the decision must be made: will I use an eye, a foot, a hand to commit sin? 

  The result of discipline to avoid sin is part of discipleship, as is thinking like Jesus.  But in these two cases, as in every other case, suffering in all its forms as disciple of Jesus issues only in life eternal.  Should one not understand the resurrection must follow suffering, one does not know God well and one does not know the fullest meaning of 'carrying one's cross'.

John Kilgallen, S.J.

Comments

Anonymous | 9/29/2009 - 3:17pm
Let us also not forget the verse about not leading children into sin and the implications of this statement on the sexual abuse crisis.  Not only is leading them into sexual sin dangerous, but to employ lawyers to aggressively fight such claims, leading them to anger and despair, is also worthy of condemnation.
On a lighter note, how about a column for September 29?