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.
“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
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.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers pointed advice to his disciples, warning them about temptations to sin. Sin signifies more than breaking a rule or committing a forbidden act; in the New Testament the word for sin is often hamartia, a term used in archery for “missing the mark.” What does it mean to miss the mark in following Jesus? In the words of Fr. James Keenan, SJ, it means to “fail to bother to love.”
Jesus invites us to examine our lives to detect fixations or distractions that hold us back from bothering to love God, others, and our self. If we are to be the “salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13) and agents of spiritual wisdom in the world (Col 4:5-6), we cannot be complacent about the beliefs, habits, relationships, or structures that impede love.
Just in time for Lent—which begins next week—this is an opportunity to discern where my life needs purification. Purification is not just about self-denial; it’s about transformation to love more freely and fully. What keeps me from bothering to love God, others, and myself? What steps can I take to cut this out of my life? How can I help others free themselves, too?
Good and gracious God, may we always be bothered to love you. Let this love drive us to service of our neighbor, for your greater glory. We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
—The Jesuit Prayer team
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