I’ve been walking a lot of lately and one day while I was walking from CUA to the National Cathedral along Porter Street I spied a group of children up ahead in a very lively discussion.
The discussion was heated and it seemed to be about some game they were playing certainly something important to them. It was a mixture with English and Spanish.
As I approached I thought I would just walk by but all of a sudden… one of the kids yelled “Mr. they aren’t being fair.” which led to a similar shout from the opposing side.
I didn’t know what to say and found myself in the middle of these kids fighting about something I didn’t understand.
The kids were clearly frustrated and their sentences all began with they…
They did this
They did that
They, they, they..
Thank God a woman with a baby came along and stepped in and the kids began to listen to her and ignore me because she obviously was a much more qualified arbiter.
She spoke in English and Spanish.
As I walked on I thought we are so quick to join groups and to label ourselves “us and them”
The kids were simply arguing about a game.. and probably when things were decided they went back to playing..
Thanks God kids don’t usually hold grudges, that little trick is somehow learned later on in life.
When adults label others
When adults begin sentences with “they”…
We often segregate ourselves from “them” or refuse to let “them” or “those people” be a part of our lives..
We refuse to recognize and good in “Them”
Once a person is labeled as part of Them it is really hard for many to open the door of their heart to “them” again.
When children begin every sentence with They….
it can be harmless when adults begin every sentence with they… it can be catastrophic.
Lumping people together with labels like
or bad or whatever
Is one of the saddest things a human being can do.
Yet that’s exactly what the disciples did in today’s Gospel..
They saw people they didn’t know
They saw people who were not from their group
not a part of their circle of friends
expelling demons and they judged them or labeled them.
They didn’t consider that demons were indeed being expelled or good was being done
They didn’t see that “the others” were actually helping people.
Instead they judged that they were some how infringing on their turf.
They thought we are the disciples of Jesus, Only we are allowed to do good for others in his name..
Jesus … used it as another teaching moment in his final crash course on his way to Jerusalem.
He called on his disciples not to be scandalized by the good deeds of others but rather
to judge everyone not by the arbitrary groups we establish
but by the fruits of their lives.
In other words we should judge people by how they live and what they accomplish
And so the first message we need to take away from this Gospel is simply that.
We should rejoice in the good that others do rather than be jealous or envious because they are different than us.
In other words should not allow ourselves to be scandalized easily by the deeds of others.
The second message is in the same vein.
Jesus uses this occasion to teach the disciplies that It is of paramount importance that we do not scandalize others.
It is so important for us not to be a stumbling block which makes it harder for others believe in God and to live good lives.
The words of Jesus should not be taken lightly… and when I think about them seriously sometimes they frighten me.
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
So how do you keep from scandalizing others ?
Jesus resorts to hyperbole to make his point when he says… If it caused you to sin cut it off or rip it out.
If the disciples took him literally it would have been really easy to tell his disciples from the non believers because every single one of them or us would have been missing some body part.
People would have been able to say… “Oh there’s a Christian and there’s another one…”
because all of us would have been bandaged up from head to toe.
What Jesus is saying is simply this..
We always have to strive to identify those things which things which hold us back and remove them from our lives.
And sometimes letting go of our pride
letting go of our anger or rage,
letting go resentfullness
letting go of our possessions or
letting go of our spiritual laziness or sloth
letting go of whatever
may seem as hard as cutting away a piece of ourselves, It may seem as hard as cutting off our hand or plucking out our eye.
Yet if we want to avoid ever giving scandal
and live good lives
live holy lives
Sometimes, actually almost always
its demands what might seem to be radical surgery or some kind of spiritual amputation.
Let us be slow to judge others or lump them in to groups… rather let us recognize their works and rejoice in their good deeds…
Let us examine our lives carefully, prayerfully, thoughtfully
and be quick to take from our lives those things which separate us from God and each other
Even if sometimes it seems that doing so will demand radical surgery on our personality and our lives
How we love your word oh lord.. help us understand how to put it into practice.