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
From Mark 9 – the Gospel reading for Sunday (Proper 21 B Revised Common Lectionary)
[ The Readings for Sunday can be found at:
“Heaven” and “Hell” are a literary and a theological and a philosophical device. To what end? To teach us what Life is like with and without Love, without Compassion. Personally, I don’t believe they are “places”. But I had a chilling thought: what if there is a consciousness after death … and we carry with us forever in our hearts and minds and bodies either the joy of “heaven” or the desolation of “Hell”! For Christians, “Heaven” is to “be with God” … and “hell” is the absence of God. I firmly believe that the essential purpose of a longing for Heaven and a fear of Hell is to teach us how to live Life here … other existences are, at best, hypothetical … sometimes called a “matter of faith”.
Today, Jesus is telling us simply and in a powerful way … for who of us doesn’t cringe at the thought of the loss of a hand or a foot or an eye … Do not trade the “joy of Heaven” for things that “pass away”. “Finding the Great Pearl” is to be a citizen of the “Kingdom of God” … of that state of existence in which Love is All.
The life of death and resurrection, of repentance and reconciliation - which we see manifested in the life of Jesus - is the daily path of discipleship with Jesus. We are constantly, often moment by moment, “laying down” Life (dying) and “taking it up again” (rising) …. and this is what we will be saying to little Ruben (and to his parents and family and to ourselves) when he is baptized at our parish Eucharist on Sunday. Die and Be raised, Die and Be Raised. Or, in the metaphor of the Gospel today, cut off hands and feet and eyes, and be “re-membered” with limbs which touch Love and walk with Love and see Love. This is why we “go to church” every Sunday … to “re-member Jesus” and be re-membered - put back together in wholeness of Life. This is the Life to which all the Baptized are called …. and we are a sign to all people … as is Jesus … as to where Life is to be found.
“Love one another” … there is Heaven … and indifference to Love is an eternal Hell.