This gospel reading contains a collection of different sayings of Jesus. The first speech warns us against the exclusive attitude which says that, unless someone completely shares our opinions and our faith, they can do no good. The next saying seems to confirm this. Any good deed from whatever source, Jesus implies, should be welcomed and will be rewarded.
Jesus then speaks of ‘obstacles’ placed in the way of believers, the ‘little ones’ who have faith. The Greek word used here is similar to the word ‘scandal’. To scandalise others, to violate their faith, to undermine their pursuit of what is good and right, is plainly wrong.
Jesus then apparently suggests that self-mutilation, cutting off hand or foot, and tearing out the eye, would be better than sinning. What are we to make of this? This is an extreme way of pointing out the seriousness of sin. Christians should understand the strength of what Jesus is saying, but Christian teaching has never condoned self-harm of this magnitude.
Finally, what are we to make of the references to hell and its eternal fire? The Church teaches us that the image of eternal fire is an attempt to express the dreadful pain of losing God and of shutting oneself off from the love of others. This pain is worse than any physical suffering.
How accepting am I of the goodness of those who do not share my beliefs?
Do I place obstacles in the way of others, undermining their faith and goodness?
We pray for the zeal which always seeks what is good.
We pray for confidence in the goodness of God.