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Friday, 24 September 2021 18:19

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B - 2021

Written by Fr Bill Burt SVD


A reflection for e-News, Sunday, 26th September, 2021

GOSPEL of MARK 9:38-48

Bill Burt 150What a weird world it would be if we took today’s Gospel at face value! Jesus spoke about cutting-off body parts and plucking-out one’s eyes. Did he really mean that his followers should do this?

Pondering this question can lead us to wonder about many of Jesus’ teachings. Looking back in history, right to the time when Jesus was walking on this earth, we can see that people have always struggled with his message, and different conclusions have been reached.

Once a wise person said to me that she thought the most important gift of the Holy Spirit is common sense. She suggested that we should always test controversial statements by asking, “What does common sense say about this?”

Taking heed of this advice, it makes sense to see Jesus’ words in light of common sense.  This isn’t something that necessarily makes us feel good, or justifies us when we opt for something that is  questionable. Common sense involves listening to people who are experienced, and it also means taking notice of what has been taught by wise people who in the past have faced  the issues that we are facing. This would include listening to our Church’s teaching.

Common sense also takes into account our personal experience, and our “gut” feelings. Sometimes we just “know” that something is right or wrong, because we have learnt to trust what happens in our lives.

Listening to the voice of our conscience, we are guided along the right path. We can, and do, and will, make mistakes. But our faith can give us the courage to keep on trusting, and using our common sense.

Does today’s Gospel advocate self-mutilation? That would be weird!

Common sense tells us that this would be the complete opposite to what Jesus asks of his followers. So where do we stand? It seems that Jesus is using very dramatic, exaggerated language to make a very serious point.  Common sense, and a thoughtful reading of the Scriptures, tell me that Jesus wanted/wants his followers to really take his essential message about loving God and neighbour seriously. He wanted/wants us to get our priorities right.

Using dramatic or extreme language is not unusual. Our own mass media does it all the time, and we aren’t shocked. For example, in 2000, a report about Cathy Freeman’s great win at the Olympic Stadium headlined with these words, “All of Australia watched with baited breath, willing Cathy to win.”  ALL of Australia? This wasn’t literally true. Not EVERY person was following the Olympic Games. But we understood what was being said.

Jesus’ teaching wasn’t/isn’t weird, but it has always been challenging, as he obviously intended it to be. Let’s think about it, pray about it, and let it be like a kind of daily bread for us. Maybe we will never fully understand his message, but trying to do so makes sense for a person of faith, whose common sense is their guide.