If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear his name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward.
If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.
If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand, than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot, than with both feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out. The fire itself will preserve them.
Salt is a good thing; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”
In today’s gospel reading Jesus’ words about cutting off a sinning hand are, of course, not to be taken literally. Why not? Because we first sin in our wills by consenting to something evil, say, snatching somebody’s purse–before we order our hand to execute our decision. Our mind is the culprit, not our hand which is only the obedient instrument of our mind. Cutting off our hand will not make us one whit more honest.
Nevertheless, Jesus’ metaphor is meant to be taken seriously. For example, I may find myself working for a company which requires me to act against my conscience. Then I must give up my job–and this can feel as painful as cutting off my hand. Or again, I may be single and fall in love with a married person. My duty, then, is clearly to stay away from that person, even if that feels like cutting off my hand. Many other similar situations can arise which force me to choose being faithful to Christ at the price of something very dear to me.
The price for being a Christian is sometimes quite high. But Christ will never let us beat him in generosity. Whatever sacrifices we do for him will one day be compensated a thousand times over.
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