Due to the increasing prices of most goods like vegetables and meat products, lately I have been buying most of our groceries at a membership club that offers sales and discounts. But I have also noticed something so strange, really odd with the people going to these Costco copycats that have become an “R&R” destination like a park or a mall, literally a “pasyalan”. See how people – not really shoppers – take “groufies” or “selfies” on alleys stacked with imported goods while their grocery cart only have a handful of products readily available in a sari-sari store. I have asked some of the staff there who told me how some people go to their exclusive, membership-only shop simply for bragging rights in social media like Facebook.
And there lies the big problem even in our Christian way of life: we are so concerned with our membership forgetting the more essential which is discipleship.
At that time, John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him… For whoever is not against us is for us. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mk.9:38-39, 40, 42)
Today our gospel is reminding us that there can be no compromises with our Lord Jesus Christ who can be meek and stern, open-minded and demanding. For Him, the sky is the limit in everything that is good, regardless of affiliations; however, when it comes with evil, the Lord is very clear too that there are no excuses. What is wrong is always wrong. Hence, we find in the following verses His famous teachings that “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehennna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter heaven crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna.”(Mk.9:43-48) Of course, these teachings are not to be taken literally for Jesus was just using a literary device to stress His point on the need to be good by getting into the very core or root of our sinfulness. One of the important things I have learned during our 30-day retreat came from our 93-year old Jesuit director, Fr. Arthur Shea who told me that once we understand our sins, then we sin less often. That is also the point of Jesus: understand why we commit sin, then we learn how to avoid committing that sin again.