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Weekend Homilies
A listing of recent homilies delivered at my parish.
Una lista de homilías recientes entregadas en mi parroquia.
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  • Pub Date: Sep 26, 2021
  • 09-26-2021 - 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
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    Full reading from today’s Gospel
    Why are these three parts put together in Mark’s gospel? We have the first part about Jesus saying that “whoever is not against us is for us.” Then he talks about causing “one of these little ones who believe in me to sin.” Then the third part about mutilating yourself, or facing “Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'".
    I think I can see the thread that sews these three together. In the first part he is talking about faith in him. This exorcist, though not part of the close knit group of disciples, believed in the power of the name of Jesus. That is why he was successful. But in the Acts of the Apostles, there are those who try to use Jesus’ name to cast out demons but instead are attacked by the demons.
    The difference is that the guy in the gospel must have believed in Jesus similar to the disciples. But the fools in the Acts of the Apostles were probably thinking of using the name of Jesus as a magic formula, and did not have faith.
    Now, the second part is talking about those who selfishly mislead others regarding the faith for their own gain. This was probably a part of these fools also. There have always been those who choose to mis-use the faith. In the last few decades, we have had a lot of that in the church. But it is not new! There have been scoundrels who have tried to take advantage of the faith from the very beginning. It never ends well for those people, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles.
    But the third part is the one I want to focus on most. Mainly because there are some people who do not accept what Jesus is saying here. There are people in the church who are trying to say that because we understand that God is a merciful God, there is no hell. This is another kind of misleading that Jesus was talking about in the second part. These people DESERVE a millstone tied around their necks! This goes against every teaching in the history of the church! The understanding of hell goes all the way back to Jesus.
    There have been some marvelous ways of trying to address this issue. One of the greatest that I have read comes from a book called “The Great Divorce”. The author wrote: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Your will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Your will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.” - C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, quoted in - Healy, Mary. Gospel of Mark, The (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) (p. 192). Baker Book Group - A. Kindle Edition.
    The catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, [but] God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.” – CCC 1035, 1037.
    So it seems clear. It is not a body part that causes sin but the human will. Jesus is not advocating physical self-mutilation but ruthless action against all our sinful drives, temptations, and attachments — even (and maybe especially) the ones that seem to be an inseparable part of ourselves. No earthly good or pleasure is too costly to give up, in view of gaining eternal life.
    Here is another point to ponder. We know what kinds of things lead to mortal sin, and the risk of going to hell. We also know that some of the things in this world are extreme dangers to some people, but not to others. The first example I think of with this is alcohol.
    There have been people who have not had problems with alcohol, but because they are friends with someone who does, they avoid any possibility of tripping up their friend’s sobriety by never having alcohol around them. This is an example of the second and third points that Jesus was making in our gospel reading.
    The abuse of alcohol for some can be a mortal sin because it is being abused. That needs to be cut out of an alcoholic’s life. If the alcoholic’s friends are always serving alcohol at parties where their friend is invited, they are going against the idea in the second part by placing this near occasion of sin in front of their friend. Finally, tying it back to the first part, are you for your friend or against your friend? Are you for Jesus or against Jesus?
    This is just one example of how these different parts of today’s gospel do fit together. They may sound at first reading that they are just a thrown together collection of saying. Thinking that would be a mistake.
    I have given you a lot to think about this weekend. But the one thing I want you to take away most is to remember: our God is a merciful God; he is so merciful that he would allow people to go to hell rather than remain in his presence when they do not love him.
    Think of it this way. When you no longer loved someone in your past, could you stand being around them? For most, I imagine the answer is no. So it will be for those who choose hell. They will not be able to stand seeing God’s love for them, so they will turn and run into hell. It will actually be easier on them to go to hell than to stay with God!
    Our work here on earth is to help everyone WANT that love of God. Unfortunately not everyone will.
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