In our first reading from Sirach, the author writes, "Delay not your conversion to the Lord." Both our readings, from Sirach and from Mark, speak to being in right relationship with God and with others.
In the reading from Sirach, we are told not to rely on wealth or strength. The obvious implication is to rely on God alone. But while we trust in God's unconditional love and His care toward us, we are not to abuse the relationship! We are not to take God's love and mercy for granted. Would we do that with any of the loving relationships we have with people? Of course not, otherwise those relationships wouldn't really be loving ones. The same is true of our relationship with God. As we rely on God, we respond to His love for us.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus tells us ways to respond to God's love. We are called to tend to others' needs, no matter how small or great: "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." The same goes for us who offer even a drink of water to someone else. But if we were to cause anyone to sin, then we remove ourselves from our relationship with God, and it would be better if a "millstone" was put around our neck.
Jesus feels so strongly about this that He uses harsh language to drive His point across: "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off." "If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." Jesus is not asking us to blind or dismember ourselves. He is asking for a total commitment from us. He is asking us to keep "salt" in ourselves, that is, the desire to follow Him and share the Good News. If we do that, we will not lose our reward, and we will "have peace," with each other, with ourselves, and with the whole world.
May we not delay in being in right relationship with the God who loves us beyond description!
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.