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Beware of the Millstone

Memorial of Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr

First Reading: Sirach 5:1-8

Rely not on your wealth;
say not: “I have the power.”
Rely not on your strength
in following the desires of your heart.
Say not: “Who can prevail against me?”
or, “Who will subdue me for my deeds?”
for God will surely exact the punishment.
Say not: “I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?”
for the Most High bides his time.
Of forgiveness be not overconfident,
adding sin upon sin.
Say not: “Great is his mercy;
my many sins he will forgive.”
For mercy and anger alike are with him;
upon the wicked alights his wrath.
Delay not your conversion to the LORD,
put it not off from day to day.
For suddenly his wrath flames forth;
at the time of vengeance you will be destroyed.
Rely not upon deceitful wealth,
for it will be no help on the day of wrath.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6

R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Gospel: Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“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.
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 Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life 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,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid,
with what will you restore its flavor?
Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

NAB

In college, the religious sister who taught our Catechetics classes would frequently warn us saying, “Beware of the millstone” in reference to this Gospel. She wanted us to understand the gravity of working with students and instructing others in the faith in whatever teaching or religious education field we would find ourselves working. Although we would kind of laugh at the dark yet somewhat humorous reference she made to this Scripture, she was talking about something serious. Our responsibility is so great and we need to “beware of the millstone.”

It’s hard to talk about sin. I think we’d often like to overlook it. It feels easier to just avoid it or say it doesn’t really exist or that whatever it is is really not so bad. But in today’s Gospel Jesus is speaking strongly to us. He’s telling us that sin is real and the consequences and ripple effects are great. We can’t just tolerate everything and say everything is fine and ok.

I’m wondering if there is something in your life that you have been tolerating that is causing you to sin. What is one thing you have been putting up with but really need to cut off? Don’t literally go and cut off your feet and hands, but perhaps there are some situations that have been causing you to take steps down a rocky path or there are things you are holding onto that need to be put aside. Maybe a guilty pleasure that’s really not so beneficial to you? An attitude of criticism or negativity that’s bringing you and others around you down? A group of friends that don’t build you up? A relationship that is not leading you closer to God? The imagery of today’s Gospel is strong and vivid. Jesus is telling us that it would be better to be physically crippled, maimed and blind than to be crippled by the effects of sin.

Our thoughts, words and actions have weight and great consequences. And it starts with cutting off those little things that are not supporting our journey and making little adjustments towards fullness of life. Let’s not delay our conversion to the Lord.

Mama Mary, sinless Virgin, gently open our eyes to see the areas of our life that need to shift. Help us to have courage to change, so that we may turn towards the abundant life and fullness of joy that your Son is offering to us today. Wrap us in your mantle and show yourself a loving mother to us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mary Catherine Craige is a lover of creativity and learning new things. You can often find her behind her harp, taking an art class, or writing in her journal. You can find out more about her here.

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