23 May, 2013. Thursday of the Seventh Week
Sir 5:1ff. Do not rely on your wealth or your strength; and do not delay your conversion to the Lord.
Mk 9:41ff. Any good deed will be rewarded. A reminder of primacy of eternal life.
First Reading: Sirach 5:1-8
Do not rely on your wealth, or say, “I have enough.”
Do not follow your inclination and strength in pursuing the desires of your heart.
Do not say, “Who can have power over me?” for the Lord will surely punish you.
Do not say, “I sinned, yet what has happened to me?” for the Lord is slow to anger.
Do not be so confident of forgiveness that you add sin to sin.
Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger will rest on sinners.
Do not delay to turn back to the Lord, and do not postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will come upon you, and at the time of punishment you will perish.
Do not depend on dishonest wealth, for it will not benefit you on the day of calamity.
Gospel: Mark 9:41-50
For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 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, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Primacy of the Hereafter
Some lurid statements must be taken figuratively, for in no way does Jesus demand that we disfigure ourselves, or gouge out an eye. His words reflect the primacy of the eternal over the temporal, of heavenly over earthly life: “Whoever would save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake and the gospels’ will save it” (Mark 8:35). Paraphrasing, one might put it: “If we use our hands, feet, eyes and our other faculties exclusively for selfish pleasure and not for loving service, we will lose everything in the end. But if we lose ourselves for the sake of goodness and for living by the gospel we will be saved for all eternity.” Life is for sharing what we possess with others and forming one body with them. In such a loving lifestyle, even small acts of helpfulness take on a very special meaning: “Anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ will not go unrewarded.”
Sirach is equally stern yet offers consoling advice. His advice is very clear, “Rely not on your wealth or strength,” since overconfidence merely adds sin to sin. At the same time, he clearly sees the possibility of personal conversion, which should not be just put off from day to day. This is very much along the lines of the urgent biblical call to make use of the grace of the present moment. “If today you have heard the voice of the Lord, harden not your heart” (Ps 95:7-8).