Gospel for Sunday, September 26: Mark 9, 38-43.45.47-48
XXVI Sunday B
38John said to him: “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we forbade him to do so, because he was not one of us.” 39But Jesus said: “Do not forbid him, because there is no one who can perform a miracle in my name and immediately afterwards speak evil of me. 40Whoever is not against us is for us. 41Whoever gives you a glass of water to drink in my name because you belong to Christ, I tell you truly, he will not lose his reward. 42Whoever scandalizes one of these little ones who believe, it is better for him that a millstone be hung around his neck and he be thrown into the sea. 43If your hand scandalizes you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. 45If your foot offends you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter life lame than to be thrown with two feet into Gehenna. 47If your eye offends you, pluck it out: it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to be thrown into Gehenna with two eyes, 48where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”.
Mark 9, 38-43.45.47-48
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
We find ourselves faced with a series of “logoia Christi”, “sayings of the Lord”, teachings of the Lord, which were grouped together using key words to facilitate memorisation.
The evangelist places them here for a specific theological purpose. Jesus is giving some teachings and here he teaches the way about community life.
The theme of scandal is a very important theme, which recurs very often in Scripture.
Scandal means obstacle. Jesus’ words are a warning to prevent being a scandal to the faith of others, from being an obstacle. Paul tells us in Rom 14:13: “Do not disturb the faith of your brothers. Don’t do anything that could cause a fall or scandal for one of your brothers.” In 1 Cor 8.9: “But take heed of this freedom of yours, so that it does not become an occasion to disturb those who are weak in faith”.
Jesus tells us that it is better to be swallowed up in the sea with a millstone used for grinding wheat around your neck (a large stone made like a trunk of a cylinder) rather than giving scandal to your brothers. The attention of believers is to avoid being a stumbling block for others: everyone, despite feeling certain of certain truths, must always let charity prevail over their intellectual certainties. How many times will Paul say that some things are permitted, some foods are lawful, some customs that the pagans propose are right, but if this is a stumbling block to his brothers who come from Judaism, he prefers to submit to all their requests (Rom 14, 1-22). Paul reminds us of the absolute primacy of charity, even with respect to theological acquisitions, even with respect to so-called freedom.
But there is another type of scandal: it is the scandal that everyone places within themselves, the personal obstacle that each of us can encounter in following the Lord, which each of us knows very well; each of us has a scandal, a stone that prevents us from running after the Lord: that’s why we need to do violence to them.
Marco’s language is very harsh: you have to make radical, decisive choices: you have to gouge out an eye, you have to gouge out an arm, if these are a scandal for the brothers. The choice of discipleship is a choice that sometimes cuts off heavy parts of ourselves, it is a choice that burns, it is a choice that imposes personal sacrifices: this is our call. Every choice for the Lord is often a painful choice: there is no logic of “sequela Christi” that is not also logic of “sequela crucis”, that is not the logic of taking up the cross and following the Lord. And taking up the cross always hurts: it’s heavy, you fall, you’re exhausted, you die on it. The believer is the one who must make radical choices to remove within him what is an obstacle to following the Lord.
We speak of Gheenna (9.45): Gheenna is the “Valley of Hinnon”, in Hebrew “Gheinnon”, south of Jerusalem, between the Mount of Olives and the Temple Mount. It was the place where, at the time of King Ahaz, children were sacrificed to the god Moloch. As we read in the second book of Kings (2 Kings 23.10), the pious king Josiah made this valley, which was a sacred place for the pagan divinity, the temple garbage dump, the public landfill. As in all landfills, the fire burned continuously to burn the large quantities of rubbish that was thrown away. Now again in the second book of Kings (23.10) and in Jeremiah (7-9) it is said that in this valley the enemies of the people of God will be destroyed and devoured by fire. In Mark the punishment is completed with the reference to the text of Isaiah 66,23-24 where the punishment of the enemies consists in the destruction of the unburied corpses.
So here is hell: you will be rubbish if you do not follow the Lord, if you lose the immense value that is following the Lord.
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.