Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(James 5:1-6; Mark 9:41-50)

Both readings today demonstrate the Scripture’s use of exaggeration for emphasis.  Such language should not be taken literally.  Rather common sense should temper extreme commands and judgments. 

In the reading from the Letter of James the author tells all the rich that they will end in misery.  He implies that everyone with wealth has extorted the poor.  Of course, this position is outrageous.  Still, 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 sustenance in life.

In the gospel Jesus tells his disciples that if their hand, foot, or eye causes them to sin, they should rid themselves of the organ.  Taken literally, such a command would contradict natural law.  Jesus means to emphasize the necessity that those with authority in the Church must never lead others astray.  Less colorfully we might say the clergy must avoid giving scandal by not misusing community funds, by not walking in places of ill-repute, and by not lusting after any one.