O God, who open wide the gates of the heavenly Kingdom to those reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, pour out on your servants an increase of the grace you have bestowed, that, having been purged of all sins, they may lack nothing that in your kindness you have promised. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Stir up the will of your faithful, we pray, O Lord, that striving more eagerly to bring your divine work to fruitful completion, they may receive in greater measure the healing remedies your kindness bestows. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 9:38-43.45.47-48
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. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. 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 it 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 the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenaa, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fir is not quenched.'”
Do you rejoice in the good that others do? Jesus reprimands his disciples for their jealousy and suspicion. They were upset that someone who was not of their company was performing good work in the name of Jesus. They even “forbade” the man “because he was not following us.” Jesus’ reply is filled with wisdom: “No one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.” Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to shine more than us? Paul says that “love is not jealous… but rejoices in the right” (1 Corinthians 12:4,6).
Envy and jealousy must be rooted out of our hearts
Envy and jealousy, its counterpart, are sinful because they lead us to sorrow over what should make us rejoice namely, our neighbour’s good. The reason we may grieve over our another’s good is that somehow we see that good as lessening or own value or excellence. Envy forms when we believe that the other person’s advantage or possession diminishes or brings disgrace on us. Envy is contrary to love. Both the object of love and the object of envy is our neighbour’s good, but by contrary movements, since love rejoices in our neighbour’s good, while envy grieves over it.
How can we overcome envy? Witht he love that God has put into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). THe Holy Spirit purifies our heart and frees us from our disordered passions, such as envy, jealousy, greed, and bitterness. God’s love is a generous and selfless love which is wholly oriented towards our good and the good of all his creatures. The love that God places in our hearts seeks the highest good of our neighbour. God’s love purifies and frees us from all envy and jealousy – and it compels us to give generously, especially to those who lack what they need.
God rewards those who do good to others
Every one in need has a claim on us because they are dear to God who created them in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). God created us in love for love. We are most free and happy when we love as he loves. The love and charitable help we show to our neighbour also expresses the gratitude we have for the abundant mercy and kindness of God towards us. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to those in need would not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is. Are you grateful for God’s mercy and kindness towards you and are you ready to show that same kindness and generosity towards your neighbour?
Gregory of Nyssa, an early church father (330-395 AD), comments on this passage: God never asks his servants to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of his Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnished to each person according to his will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means loses his reward (Mark 9:41). Do you allow the love of Christ to transform your heart that you may treat your neighbour with kindness and mercy?
Avoiding evil and the near occasion of sin
Was Jesus exaggerating when he urges his followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences (Mark 9:42-48)? Jesus set before his disciples the one supreme goal in life that is worth any sacrifice, and that goal is God himself and his will for our lives which leads to everlasting peace and happiness. Just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which leads to spiritual death.
Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The Greek work for temptation (scandalon) is exactly the same at the English word scandal. THe original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block which causes one to trip and fall. The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he or she in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foresseable end. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith. Do you set a good example for others to follow, especially the young?
Lord Jesus, free my heart from envy and jealousy, and every disordered thought and wrong desire, that I may always treat each person with respect and goodness for the glory of you name.
We can learn to love God with all our strength. We can choose to follow Christ and travel the path of spiritual maturity. We can resist temptation and grow in virtue. We can make a difference in the world, building Christ’s kingdom and encouraging others to do the same. If we couldn’t, none of the New Testament letters would have been written, since they all contain passionate encouragement to make practical, daily choices worthy of our Christian calling. If knowing the truth were sufficient for our spiritual growth, and if we were not free to choose to live according to that truth, St Paul, for example, would never have written this: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry…Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection…And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:5, 12–14, 17). Then our hearts desire God above all things, and our emotions are joyfully subject to an intellect enlightened by faith and a will strengthened and aligned by grace, we can truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, just as Jesus commands.
How do you expect the Lord to treat you when you ask for his help? Do you approach with fear and doubt, or with faith and confidence? Jesus never turned anyone aside who approached him with sincerity and trust. And whatever Jesus did, he did well. He demonstrated both the beauty and goodness of God in his actions. When Jesus approaches a man who is both deaf and a slutterer, Jesus shows his considerateness for this man’s predicament. Jesus takes him aside privately, no doubt to remove him from embarassement with a noisy crowd of gawkers. Jesus then puts his fingers into the deaf man’s ears and he touches the man’s tongue with his own spittle to physically identify with this man’s infirmity and to awaken faith in him. With a word of command the poor man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
What is the significance of Jesus putting his fingers into the man’s ears? Greogy the Great, a church father from the 6th century, comments on this miracle: The Spirit is called the finger of God. When the Lord puts his fingers into the ears of the deaf mute, he was opening the soul of man to faith through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The people’s response to this miracle testifies to Jesus’ great care for others: He has done all things well. No problem or burden was too much for Jesus’ careful consideration. The Lord treats each of us with kindness and compassion and he calls us to treat one another in like manner. The Holy Spirit who dwells within us enables us to love as Jesus loves. Do you show kindness and compassion to your neighbours and do you treat them with considerateness as Jesus did?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and inflame my heart with love and compassion. Make me attentive to the needs of others that I may show them kindness and care. Make me an instrument of your mercy and peace that I may help others find healing and wholeness in you.