Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gospel for Thursday, 7th Week in Ordinary Time

From: Mark 9:41-50


[41] "For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose his reward.

[42] "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. [43] And if your hand causes you to sin cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. [45] And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. [47] And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, [48] where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. [49] For every one will be salted with fire. [50] Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."


41. The value and merit of good works lies mainly in the love of God with which they are done: "A little act, done for love, is worth so much" (J. Escriva, "The Way", 814). God regards in a special way acts of service to others, however small: "Do you see that glass of water or that piece of bread which a holy soul gives to a poor person for God's sake; it is a small matter, God knows, and in human judgment hardly worthy of consideration: God, notwithstanding, recompenses it, and forthwith gives for it some increase of charity" (St Francis de Sales, "Treatise on the Love of God", book 2, chap. 2).

42. "Scandal is anything said, done or omitted which leads another to commit sin" ("St Pius X Catechism", 417). Scandal is called, and is, diabolical when the aim of the scandal-giver is to provoke his neighbor to sin, understanding sin as offense against God. Since sin is the greatest of all evils, it is easy to understand why scandal is so serious and, therefore, why Christ condemns it so roundly. Causing scandal to children is especially serious, because they are so less able to defend themselves against evil. What Christ says applies to everyone, but especially to parents and teachers, who are responsible before God for the souls of the young.

43. "Hell", literally "Gehenna" or "Ge-hinnom", was a little valley south of Jerusalem, outside the walls and below the city. For centuries it was used as the city dump. Usually garbage was burned to avoid it being a focus of infection. Gehenna was, proverbially, an unclean and unhealthy place: our Lord used this to explain in a graphic way the unquenchable fire of hell.

43-48. After teaching the obligation everyone has to avoid giving scandal to others, Jesus now gives the basis of Christian moral teaching on the subject of "occasions of sin"--situations liable to lead to sin. He is very explicit: a person is obliged to avoid proximate occasions of sin, just as he is obliged to avoid sin itself; as God already put it in the Old Testament: "Whoever lives in dangerwill perish by it" (Sir 3:26-27). The eternal good of our soul is more important than any temporal good. Therefore, anything that places us in proximate danger of committing sin should be cut off and thrown away. By putting things in this way our Lord makes sure we recognize the seriousness of this obligation.

The Fathers see, in these references to hands and eyes and so forth, people who are persistent in evil and ever-ready to entice others to evil behavior and erroneous beliefs. These are the people we should distance ourselves from, so as to enter life, rather than accompany them to hell (St Augustine, "De Consensu Evangelistarum", IV, 16; St John Chrysostom, "Hom. on St Matthew", 60).

44. "Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched": these words constituting v. 44 are not in the better manuscripts. They are taken from Isaiah 66:24 and are repeated as a kind of refrain in vv. 46 (omitted for the same reason as v. 44) and 48. Our Lord uses them to refer to the torments of hell. Often "the worm that does not die" is explained as the eternal remorse felt by those in hell; and the "fire which is not quenched," as their physical pain. The Fathers also say that both things may possibly refer to physical torments. In any case, the punishment in question is terrible and unending.

49-50. "Every one will be salted with fire." St Bede comments on these words: "Everyone will be salted with fire, says Jesus, because spiritual wisdom must purify all the elect of any kind of corruption through carnal desire. Or he may be speaking of the fire of tribulation, which exercises the patience of the faithful to enable them to reach perfection" (St Bede, "In Marci Evangelium expositio, in loc.").

Some codexes add: "and every sacrifice will be salted with salt". This phrase in Leviticus (2:12), prescribed that all sacrificial offerings should be seasoned with salt to prevent corruption. This prescription of the Old Testament is used here to teach Christians to offer themselves as pleasing victims, impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel, symbolized by salt. Our Lord's address, which arises out of a dispute over who is the greatest, ends with a lesson about fraternal peace and charity. On salt which has lost its taste cf. note on Mt 5:13.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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