Cut It Off!

Sunday Gospel Reflection
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | Sept. 26, 2021

Cut It Off!
Joanne R. Bantang
Ministry of Lectors and Commentators

In our world, especially during these times, “mahirap maging mahirap.” But in today’s readings, God’s words remind us that wealth or richness can be a burden or difficulty. In St. James’ letter, he rebuked the wealthy for their greed, selfishness, and for oppressing the poor. And Jesus’ advice is, whatever it is that causes you to sin, cut it off!

There are other readings that come to mind about wealth and charity and attaining salvation or heaven, and they say the same thing: “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). One need not be too rich to succumb to this unhealthy view of wealth as even most Filipinos in the middle-income class may face this concern. So, what is a Catholic supposed to do with wealth? Can you have wealth and not get too attached to it? Can we really have the courage to cut it off when we realize that it is our love of wealth that leads us to sin? How can we cut off our wealth knowing that it will be difficult to live in a world with not enough resources? How can we use our wealth to store up wealth in heaven? And if ever we use our wealth for charity, how do we know if that is already enough? As I reflect on this specific aspect of the reading, these questions are also for you, readers, to answer. Please share your thoughts—maybe we can all learn a thing or two.

In our family, we use our resources (wealth) to give to charity—giving a monthly pledge or donating to the church and sharing blessings with the needy. This pandemic gives all of us a lot of opportunities to do this. Our mental heuristic to come up with the amount to donate is the answer to the question: What amount hurts? For a long time, that’s been our strategy. But the question remains: Is it enough? Have we done enough? Is the answer really something that is between you and God?

Being charitable can sometimes give us a false sense of security. It can lull us to think that we have already done something. Sometimes, we use it as leverage in our prayers. “Nagbigay naman ako Lord, baka pwede namang….” Is this OK? Kids usually use this strategy when asking for rewards from parents: “Nag-aral na po ako or ginawa ko na po ang household chores, pwede na po ba maglaro?” If we are children of God, can we also behave like that? Is it good behavior? Is it a proper attitude to use wealth as leverage to storing wealth in heaven? It doesn’t seem wrong, but it also feels not entirely right.

Alas, I have more questions than answers. But as I’m trying to think of an end to this reflection, I glanced back at the Gospel reading, and these words caught my attention: “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. 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” (Mark 9:39, 41). I was choked up—there’s my answer! My questions are still there, and I will probably ask the same questions several other times. At least, the Gospel gives as much hope as it asks us to question our ways. Indeed, “the precepts of the Lord give joy to my heart” (Psalm 19).

I end this reflection with this prayer:

“Lord, please purify our works of charity so that everything that comes from you, we may be able to share with others and help us become Christ-like as we serve others. Holy Spirit, inspire us to always think of this in all our works. Amen.”

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