All of Me
Homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Preached on September 29-30, 2012 at Saint Mary Catholic Church, Perryville KY and Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings: Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
I will be honest with you: I find today’s Gospel disturbing.
I find it disturbing because I have never expected Jesus to encourage any sort of self-mutilation. Yet, in this Gospel according to Mark, Jesus speaks plainly about the subject, perhaps a little too graphically: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed…And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled…And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” (Mk. 9:43-47). It is disturbing because it is not the sort of Gospel that I would like to hear on any given day, much less on a Sunday. I have come here to listen to the Good News from God-Feel-Good-on-a-Sunday-morning. I would rather have none of this hand-cutting, foot-amputating, eye-plucking business, none of this fire and brimstone. After all, I am a Catholic not a Baptist, and, if ever I were going to listen to any of that fire and brimstone stuff, I would rather hear it during Lent.
I find this Gospel disturbing because it takes things too far. It is the sort of Gospel reserved for religious fanatics, zealots, and extremists. But, most of all, I find it disturbing because I know my own sins and, if this were the measure of faithfulness to Christ, I would probably be a quadriplegic by now. If the Lord’s command were to cut off and pluck out those bodily members that cause me to sin, I know that I would end up either maimed, or amputated, or blind, or neutered. It would not be a pretty picture; that much is for sure.
Yet, Jesus is not letting me off the hook this Sunday, nor on any other day for that matter. The questions that I have to ask myself are these: Is Jesus worth losing my hand for? Is He worth losing my foot for? Is He worth losing my sight for? Is He worth my dying for? These are the questions that I can ask myself in the examination of my conscience. They are questions that deal with the status of Jesus in my life. They are questions that I have to account for in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
How much of myself am I willing to give up for God? Would I be like the rich condemned by Saint James in his letter who have ignored the Lord and instead have stored up wealth that has rotten away, clothes that have become moth-eaten, gold and silver that have corroded (cf. Jas. 5:1-3)? Or, would I be singing to the Lord the words of that old jazz standard popularized by Frank Sinatra?
“All of me, why not take all of me?
Can’t you see I’m no good without you?
Take my lips; I wanna lose them.
Take my arms; I’ll never use them. [Cut them off!]
“Your good-bye left me with eyes that cry. [Pluck them out!]
How can I ever make it without you?
You took the part that once was my heart.
So, why not take all of me?”
Whatever my response is, Jesus already has given all of us His final, irrevocable word through His cross. His cross tells us that, for Jesus, we are worth having His hands and feet pierced by the nails, we are worth having His back beaten, we are worth having His naked body hanging on a cross. Jesus says to us with His cross: we are worth dying for. This is precisely what we remember every Sunday and at every Mass. At this altar we hear again the words of Christ: “This is My Body which will be given up for you…This is My Blood which will be poured out for you” (cf. Mk.14:22, 24). We have come to this table to receive His gift of Himself; He gives us His all: His Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity.
Does that make Jesus an extremist? Does that make Him a champion of bodily mutilation? I do not think so; but, it does tell us how much He loves us.
And it seems to me that it would be far more disturbing to let anything in our lives or even in our bodies get in the way of following Him whose love has given us everything.