Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(James 5:1-6; Mark 9:41-50)
Both the first reading and the gospel today demonstrate the Bible’s capacity to use hyperbolic language to make its point. We must remember that such language should not be understood literally. Rather we should allow common sense to question extreme commands and judgments and then defer to Church authorities for a proper interpretation.
In the reading from the Letter of James the author seems to tell all the rich that they will end up in misery. Apparently he believes that everyone with wealth has extorted the poor. Of course, this position is patently false. Still, however, seeking wealth as the heart’s desire runs the risk of greed and selfishness. Everyone – the rich, the poor, and persons in the middle – should become “poor in spirit” as the responsorial psalm says. That is, all people should look to God as their principal resource of fulfillment in life.
Jesus tells his disciples that if their hand, foot, or eye causes them to sin, they should sever these organs. If Jesus meant to be taken literally here, he would be advocating actions contrary to natural law! But he only wants to emphasize the necessity that those with authority in the Church must never lead the faithful astray. By way of example we might say that Church leaders have to avoid giving scandal by keeping their hands out of community funds, by not kicking others with their feet, and by not lusting after any one with their eyes.