HOMILY FOR TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (B)

Dear friends. If we were to take every word of Jesus in the Gospel literally there be a lot of blind, lame and maimed people about. ‘If your hand, or your foot or your eye should cause you to sin, tear them off’ - so says Jesus in today's gospel reading.

Clearly, we're not intended to take these words to the letter. But not taking words literally doesn't mean not taking them seriously. It doesn't actually take too much effort to get to the meaning of these strong words: Jesus is telling us that if something that is part of our life is causing us to sin, or has become a problem we may need to cut it off.

An alcoholic doesn't need to drink less but to quit drinking, to amputate any part of his or her former life that might lead back to drink. The effort involved in giving up an addiction may feel like an amputation. But it's the only way to life.

Jesus understands our tendency to sin. He knows that left to ourselves we go with gravity, with the flow. Given our natural tendency to fall rather than rise, it will sometimes be the cause that we need to cut out rather than to cut down.

To go back to the unfortunate alcoholic or let's say a near-alcoholic. If someone is developing a problem with the bottle and is beginning to realize this, but still reasons: well I'll just keep one bottle in the house’, they'll be kidding themselves, engaging in a bit of doublethink. But Jesus words confront our double thinking and our subtlety: ‘if there something in your life that is causing you to sin, cut it out’.

If we examine ourselves and discover that by the grace of God there isn't at this time anything that's particularly harmful, any specific occasion of sin, then thank God. But even if that's the case, Jesus words still have something to say to us. They invite us to be on our guard and seek the Lord's help in our weakness.

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