26’th SUNDAY in ORDINARY TIME
In part, the gospel talks about scandalizing people. In our modern language, to scandalize means “to shock or outrage or offend the feelings of someone, to offend the moral sense of someone by what is considered as ‘improper or unconventional conduct” (Webster).
But in the bible, to scandalize means quite differently. It means: to cause someone to stumble, to lay a snare in someone’s path. Applied to our Christian life, this means to give someone an occasion to sin. This is done by setting a bad example, by suggesting a sinful act (‘come on, there’s nothing wrong with cheating or backbiting’), by seducing someone, or by inciting others.
It is noteworthy that Jesus, who is usually so merciful and gentle toward sinners has extremely harsh words when he speaks of the person who scandalizes. This type of sin was the most serious one in his eyes. Thus, He says, “If you hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off . . . and if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off. And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out!”
Jesus challenges us to recognize them and take decisive action to change. He invites us to examine ourselves carefully on this score, particularly in our dealings with the young, the weak, the ignorant, the innocent, and the impressionable—they are the most vulnerable.
He challenges us to discover the parts of our lives that need to be cut off and tossed away. An actual mutation is not recommended. We do not take the teaching of Jesus here literally. Otherwise, we will be seeing many people without arms, feet, and eyes. (Origen, it is said, took this literally and castrated himself). It is only a metaphor (an image or representation) suggesting the COSTLIEST SACRIFICE and emphasizing the RADICAL CHARACTER of Christ’s demands, the seriousness of the SIN. Indeed, no half measures can ensure entrance into his kingdom.
Today, Jesus is asking all of us: “What is in your heart? What needs to get cut out to make more room for my heart?”
It is always difficult to admit to ourselves that we have our weaknesses But to admit our weaknesses is the first step to recovery. The second is dropping the bad habit—which is the most painful—like cutting off a hand or afoot. But Jesus tells us that such a step is necessary if one is to become free. For this undertaking, we need prayers, sacraments, and the support of the community.