Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, 26th September

Mark 9:38–41, 45, 47-48

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. 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.”


In today’s gospel, we have the incident of the exorcist who was not a follower of Jesus. The apostles did not approve of this man, but Jesus said to let him be for “he that is not against us is for us”; because the power of exorcism was from God. Further to this incident, St. Mark then adds a collection of sayings on charity, avoiding scandal and the necessity of giving up what is most dear to us in life if it impedes us from entering eternal life.

In the incident of the exorcist, John thought that it was wrong for someone who was not a follower of Jesus to exorcize and casts out demons in the name of Jesus. But Jesus did not agree with this interpretation. Jesus saw the incident in another prospective. He knew any man who has this power, has it from God and therefore he is not an opponent of Christ, thus he will not be able to speak evil and condemn the activity of Jesus.

Having made known of his thought about the incident, Jesus went even further by saying that even a much smaller act of kindness, such as giving people a cup of water to drink, done to a fellowman because of Christ will have its heavenly reward. He implied that such a small act of kindness could be performed by a non-Christian.

Turning to another side of the coin of his saying, Jesus pointed out that anyone who weakens the faith of Christ’s followers would be better off if he had been drowned before he committed this sin of scandal. A shortening of one’s earthly life is of little importance when compared with the loss of one’s eternal.

Scandal is the sin of being a cause of an occasion of another’s sin, is doubly sinful involving one’s own sin and the person scandalized. Scandal can be caused by word, such as teaching or propagating wrong doctrine or giving sinful advice. And it can also be caused by one’s own sinful deeds which may be imitated by others.

Those in positions of authority such as parents whose duty is to bring up their children in the Christian faith, are especially liable to give scandal if they fail to live truly Christian lives. Christian parents who fail to live according to their faith will be held accountable not only for their own sins, but for the sins of their children and perhaps their children’s children for generations to come.

The second lesson for all of us in today’s gospel is that we should ever realize that eternal life is worth any sacrifice which we may be called on to make. The road we have to travel in life is not an easy one. As our Lord says in another place: “Enter by the narrow gate for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13).

We wish to reach heaven, therefore we must be prepared to follow Christ. We must not allow others to lead us astray but be prepared and determined to conquer and resist our own evil inclinations also.

The world and our own human nature will put many obstacles in our way. For that reason God gave us the Ten Commandments which spell out for us what we are to avoid and what we are to do if we wish to have eternal life. For many keeping these commandments is not an easy task and it makes severe demands at times. However, our Lord makes it crystal clear that we must endure the hardship because the prize, the reward, is everlasting happiness. When he said that we must be ready to deprive ourselves of a foot or a hand or an eye if they should be obstacles to us, he was speaking metaphorically. He simply stresses that we must be ready if necessary to give up what is dearest to our nature. The less of earthly luggage we carry with us and the less of earthly attachments we give way to, the easier and safer will be out journey.

We pray today: “Lord, self-renunciation and attention to the needs of our brothers and sisters are the hallmark of belonging to you. You call me to be a stepping-stone for others, not a stumbling block.” Amen.