Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus tells us to cut out our right eye or right hand if it causes us to sin.  It is better for us to lose those parts of our body than to spend eternity separated from God.  The state of permanent separation after death is what we call hell, but what Jesus calls here Gehenna.

Does Jesus really want us to start amputating body parts to avoid sin?  Remember that Jesus sometimes used exaggeration in his teaching.  So, we must understand that before taking everything literally.  Origen, the famous theologian from the second and third centuries, was rumored to have taken this passage literally and mutilated himself because of it. 

No, we should not do that to ourselves.  We should, however, read this teaching as part of an overall theme of detachment.  Things of this world are of this world.  The more that we can detach from the things of this world, the more open that we can be to the Holy Spirit filling our hearts and guiding a closer relationship with the Trinity.

Can we find hope and peace and joy in our faith regardless of what we have in this life?  Do we think that we need wealth, power, fame, health, or comfort to be happy?  Do we covet our neighbor’s good fortune?  Do we wish that we had what they have? 

Detachment does not speak to whether we have these things as much as it speaks to whether we can live without them.  It speaks to whether they become an impediment in the spiritual life for us. 

George Carlin had a famous routine in which he said that our houses were not so much homes but containers for our possessions.  If our possessions do not fit in our house, we buy a bigger house (or, these days, rent storage).  Once we get a bigger house, we fill it with more possessions.  The takeaway is that this materialistic existence keeps us from living the life that we need to live.  Our lives become consumed with taking care of our possessions.

To what extent do I focus on my possessions and other things of this world rather than on God?  Are there things of this world that I think that I cannot live without?  Do I realize that God is what I can really never live without?