Mark 9:38-43, 45 47-48
Serious Business by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
At that time, John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us." Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'"
St. Augustine once said in a sermon: "The day I became a bishop, a burden was laid on my shoulders for which it will be no easy task to render an account." On another occasion, he said, "I must distinguish carefully between two aspects of the role the Lord has given me, a role that demands rigorous accountability, a role based on the Lord's greatness rather than on my own merit. The first aspect is that I am a Christian; the second, that I am a leader. . . . The fact that I am a Christian is to my own advantage, but I am a leader for your advantage."
It is clear Augustine approached his vocation with great humility and a reverent fear. Those who exercise authority in the Church and those entrusted with handing on the Faith - parents and clergy especially, but catechists and teachers as well - would do well to imitate the saint's example. That we need to take our vocations and tasks seriously is highlighted by what Our Lord says in today's Gospel: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea."
It is frustrating and heartbreaking to hear stories about priests who openly dissent from Church teachings in the pulpit. What damage it does to the faithful when he fails to preach the fullness of truth or when he fails to challenge his flock to grow in holiness. Worse yet would be if he is not striving to do so himself. In light of what Our Lord says, if a priest, called to be a shepherd leading souls to heaven, should neglect that duty, it is clearly no small thing.
It is difficult and frustrating to try and instill in young children making their first Communion the importance of the sacraments and Mass when parents are not bringing them to church regularly. Too often, it seems, sports is placed ahead of formation in the faith. We can help our children to be great athletes, but of greater importance is helping them to be great saints. They can learn about Christ in the classroom, but in the liturgy they can learn and be formed by Christ himself. In light of what Our Lord says, if parents, the first and most important teachers of their children, neglect their children's spiritual formation, it is no small thing.
Jesus' words should instill in us a sense of reverent fear. It is not as if he wants to terrify us into doing our duties well. It is simply that God created us so that He could pour out His blessing upon us. He has promised us a heavenly inheritance. As parents, pastors and teachers we would do our children and congregations, not to mention ourselves, a great disservice if we neglect to prepare them for entering into that inheritance.
If we learn nothing else from all that is said in today's Gospel, it should simply be that to be a saint is a serious business.
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