MARK 9: 38-48
SEPTEMBER 27, 2009
I just bought shiny, colorful, new running shoes courtesy of my running club. I can't wait to run in them. They are advertised as shoes that will make me run faster without training! What a deal. I love to run. Each morning I get up very early, like a good monk, and spend time prayerfully with God in solitude and silence. Then I meditate on a little bible passage. After this I get on my running gear and go to meet my friends in our running club.
What if I went to bed at night and felt too tired to get up early for prayer? "Oh, I will sleep in and skip the prayer, so that I will have more energy for running," I might say to myself. Would this be a sin? If sin were just the Ten Commandments, it would be no sin. But the saints see sin as bad habits that keep us from growing in our relationship with God. Such bad habits became known as the Seven Deadly Sins. One of them is sloth or laziness. The others are pride, avarice, envy, anger, lust, and gluttony. With sloth I am either too lazy or too disinterested in prayer to get up early and practice it. Running has become more important.
The Gospel seems to say that I need to cut out running because it is getting in the way of my spiritual growth. Running has become important to me, much like a hand, or foot or eye. Jesus is not saying that we should mangle our bodies, but rather that whatever gets in the way of our relationship to God is usually something we see as essential or necessary.
In the Gospel John believes that everyone ought to belong to John's particular group if they are going to be "true" followers of Jesus. John is what today we might call a "fundamentalist." My group is right and every other religious group that says it follows Jesus is wrong. Jesus challenges this narrow view. Jesus is more inclusive. John's view might be very precious to him. He might have a deep need to be exclusive. So it will be like cutting off a piece of his body for him to give up this way of thinking. What is so valuable to you that you would let it get in your way of attending to your relationship with God?