26th Sunday: A Sign to Heaven -Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Today’s readings give us a strong warning against jealously, intolerance, and scandal.  John complained to Jesus that a man outside of their group was driving out demons in Jesus’ name.  Seeing this, the disciples tried to prevent him from doing so.  Jesus taught the disciples that even if a person is not in their group, they should not neglect the person’s basic goodness.

We should not stop anyone from doing good, and we should not put anyone down.  We cannot reject people simply because they do not share our same spirituality or do not follow Jesus in the same way we do.  For Jesus there is no division or group; we make divisions and groups.

Jesus said. “Do not prevent anyone.” With the same spirit and attitude, Pope Francis, during his visit to America six years ago, in his historic speech to the U.S. Congress, Pope challenged our congress to welcome everyone in our nation and in our community and to use our power and authority to heal the “open wounds” of a planet torn by hatred, greed, poverty, and pollution.

Pope Francis used the examples of American icons like Abraham Lincoln, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton.   Pope Francis said, “A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Abraham Lincoln did when it foster a culture, which enables people to dream of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King wanted to do when it struggles for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, and faith brings peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.”

In the second part of the gospel, Jesus challenges us, if we cause sin and scandal to others through our body parts or by our actions, cut it off or pluck it out.  Jesus was not literally saying we want to cut off our hands or legs or any other body parts.  Hence, these sayings are actually about our attitudes, dispositions, and tendencies.  We need to cut off our negative attitudes, evil actions, and bad habits and this can be very challenging for us.

Jesus is inviting us to make the parts of our bodies into Jesus so that our hands become agents of compassion, healing, and comfort; our feet help us to bring the gospel message to the world; and our eyes learn to see the truth, goodness, and beauty that is all around us.

William Barclay, a British theologian, told a story about road signs.  At the intersection of a road, one sign pointed to the city of New York and another to the city of Boston.  A boy wondered to himself: “How many people could I send down the wrong road if I change the signs?”  Every life is a signpost with a sign on it.  Let us ask ourselves:  Are we sending people on the wrong or right roads?   Are we sending our children on the paths of God by our witnessing and practicing our faith?

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