Daily Reflection
May 19th, 2005

Chas Kestermeier, S.J.

Chaplain, Kiewit Residence Hall
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Sirach 5:1-8
Psalm 119: 165, 168, 171-172, 174-175
Mark 9:41-50

Today's gospel passage consists of four "sayings" of Jesus, collected and combined on the basis of word association ("reward" > punishment > "fire" > "salt"), but which otherwise have little in common. I would like to focus on the passage concerning the removal of body parts that "keep us from God."

One of the leading figures in the first few centuries of the Church was Origen, who is said to have taken this passage literally and castrated himself so as to end his strong carnal desires, a source of serious sin for him. In spite of his generosity and good intentions, the Church has roundly condemned this act: we are not to take Christ's words here literally.

What Jesus does mean is that we need to reach as deeply into our lives as possible, as close to our center, and need to cope in a true, honest manner with whatever we find there that keeps us from God.

This can be painful and might necessitate significant restructuring of who we are and what we do: we can be strongly attached to such obvious things as alcohol, drugs, pornography, or abusive relationships, for example, or our harmful attachments can be as simple as the places that we go or the people that we choose to spend time with.

These areas of resistance to God might also be attachment to ungodly values and practices, less obvious and more pervasive in our culture as well as harder to detect, avoid, and root out. We can nurse a grudge and, in the name of a misplaced "justice," refuse to forgive someone, or we can harbor hurtful memories instead of letting them go. There are all sorts of ways in which we flee God's love for us, cling to an independence which is nothing other than sin and separation from Eternal Love.

Jesus is calling us, in short, to a much greater sensitivity to what we are willing to consider harmful to our embracing of God, a greater sensitivity to what we fear that God might ask us to let go of, remove, or change.

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