The cooler temperatures and the waning sunlight signal it is time for fall cleaning going. For me, this is the sadness of putting the garden to rest, saying good-bye to the pots of blooming containers, bringing in plants I wish to protect from the cold and snow, and putting away or winterizing patio furniture.
The story of about two seniors who married in their 80s, comes to mind. On their wedding night, the man sat watching his new wife prepare for bed. She first removed her glass eye and put it in a box. She took her teeth out, and they went in the box as well. She next unscrewed her prosthetic leg; finally, her wig came off and it all went into the box. The man cried, “I don’t know whether to get into bed or into the box!”
These scenarios came to mind with today’s gospel. Jesus uses some rather harsh language to stress the point of our leading others to holiness rather than sin. For Jesus to cause another to sin, especially one of God’s least ones, was despicable. Jesus used the forceful Semitic expressions, to stress the seriousness of sin, insisting that it is better to lose essential body parts than to fall into sin or lead another away from God. Few interpreters think Jesus meant this language to be taken literally. It expresses how much he cares for all the little people, the marginalized, the oppressed. They all belong to Christ.
Because so much depends upon the choices we make and the challenges we accept, followers of Jesus must fortify themselves with prayer. For us there is always excess baggage that we need to get rid of. We need to throw our sinful habits and vices into the box in order to achieve holiness. We also encourage; strength fortify one another with compassionate support, remembering all the while that the very Spirit of God moves within each of us, pressing us onward to all that is good, true, just and holy.
Mary McGlone writes, “If we were to put the teaching into modern terms, it might go something like this: “If your hand closes the door on one who wishes to give themselves to Jesus’ mission, cut it off. If your foot seeks the first place in a procession, amputate it. If your eye has become critically focused on the questionable ideas of some people while you avoid seeing the abusive behavior of others, pluck it out! You will be far better off in the kingdom with a broken body than in the nether world with everything intact, but without hope for the future.”
Blessings on your Fall cleaning!