The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Num 11:25-29 + Jas 5:1-6 + Mk 9:38-43,45,47-48
September 30, 2018
“It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.”
Jesus wants us to wake up when He boldly explains that “It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.”
At the moment of your death, there will be no more for you to say or do. At that moment, Christ will judge your particular life: that is, He will judge you as an individual, in the light of each of your thoughts, words, actions, and inaction. From that moment of particular judgment, the Lord will set you on one of two paths: the first, to eternal punishment; the second, to eternal life, perhaps by way of Purgatory. Each of us will face this particular judgment, each at the time of his or her own death.
However, at the end of time, the bodies of all the dead will be raised up and joined to their souls again. At the end of time, the Final Judgment will occur. The Final Judgment is different from each person’s particular judgment. At the end of time, at the Final Judgment, every person from every generation of human history will be gathered together, and everyone’s life—sins and good deeds—will be revealed before everyone else. Jesus will then draw a dividing line and separate the sheep from the goats.
Remember that in the beginning, God’s plan was to have everyone at the end of time end up on the same side of that dividing line. God wanted every human being who ever lived to be one of His sheep: someone who would follow Him faithfully. This was God’s “Plan A”.
But this is where many people hold up their hands, and tell God to stop in His tracks. People question God’s love. They ask whether it’s really loving for God to draw that line in the sand. The irony is: not only is this loving; this is the highest form God’s love for us can take. God absolutely respects your freedom to reject Him. To say this same thing from an opposing perspective: our human power to reject God is the greatest power that we have.
To be faithful, on the other hand—to choose God rather than reject Him—means that we ourselves must do some “radical rejection”. In other words, if we don’t make rejection part of our own spiritual lives, rejection will have to be God’s response to us. Again, in other words, we cannot be pleasing to God—we cannot be who we were made to be—without rejection within our own spiritual lives.
This rejection within our own spiritual lives is what Jesus is preaching about in today’s Gospel passage. The metaphor that Jesus uses—cutting off one’s hand or eye—forces us to realize how serious Jesus is, and how serious our rejection has to be. Such metaphors also foreshadow how God will judge us after death. After all, Saint Paul teaches us in his letters that the Church is the Body of Christ. At the end of time, God will be willing to cut from that Body those members who refuse to love Him, who are unwilling to choose God’s way instead of their own way of life.