John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
Over the past two weeks the Jewish community has celebrated Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. A thoughtful Rabbi speaks of these celebrations as moments of mindfulness—a mindfulness that sharpens one’s spiritual focus and turns one’s heart anew to serve God in wholeness and freedom. This clear focus enables a person to freely give talents, time and treasure in service to those in need— especially the poor, the outcast, those at the margins.
Today’s readings offer Christians pretty clear criteria for becoming honest and open followers of Jesus Christ. Rather than disorder and distrust, we who follow Jesus will be known by the ways we serve those in need and the ways we strengthen each other’s faith, especially the faith of those who are young and vulnerable. Rather than confusion and mistrust, we are called to fashion a world tangibly alive with the gospel values of love and service.
This brings us back to that faith-filled mindfulness of turning our hearts to God. Jesus is quite bold in saying that radical surgery may be necessary—if your hand or foot is the problem, cut it off. If the envy in my eye is leading me astray, better to get to heaven with just one eye. Our hearts can certainly be renewed if we learn that all-important lesson of handing over our lives to God no matter what… knowing that it is in dying to ourselves that we are all born to eternal life.
—The Jesuit prayer team
Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, drench me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Good Jesus, hear me
Within your wounds, shelter me
from turning away, keep me
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints
Forever and ever.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola