When I was young, I use to go fishing with my Grandfather. We didn’t go very often but when we did, he brought everything needed to catch fish, nets and bait to catch crabs, a cast net to catch shrimp and ice chests for food. We were loaded down. He didn’t have a big motor, about six horse power, and we had to rent a skiff.
One day in August we went fishing with all our gear around the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain. We traveled from the dock to the five-mile bridge and started to fish. We didn’t catch very many fish and as evening was setting in, we started back. Unfortunately, my grandfather’s motor wouldn’t start. We had to row the boat back to the dock.
Unfortunately, darkness prevented us from seeing the dock and we passed it up. When we tried to get closer to shore, the waves swamped the boat and the gear we had when floating all around us. We salvaged most of our “stuff” but we had to spend the whole night on the shore waiting for sunlight so we could see to get back to the dock.
Jesus is always giving us some valuable advice about our life journey. He tells us there are some things we need to bring with us and some things that we need to leave behind. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus uses very strong and strange words about cutting off parts of our body.
Jesus is not advocating that we start cutting off various limbs or plucking out our eyes. He is using a form of speech that was very popular in his day and is also very common in our own day. It’s called “exaggeration.” So what is Jesus trying to tell us?
We must not allow any part of ourselves to hinder us from our life journey. If any part is dragging us down, then we have to make some strong decisions that will enable us to continue our journey without too many burdens weighing us down.
Jesus warns us against taking along things that are not appropriate as we move toward the fullness of life. To enter eternal life, we cannot be using our hands, feet, eyes, or mouth or any part of ourselves in any inappropriate way.
If we use our hands for purposes of violence or theft, or for sexual exploitation, then we must cut off that use of our hands. If we use our feet to bring us to places filled with danger for the good of our spirits, then we must cut off that use of our feet. If we use our eyes to look at pornography or waste them on reading trash, or viewing violent, dehumanizing films – we must cut off that use of our eyes. If we use our mouths to swear, to gossip, to badmouth others, to put down our families or co-workers, to stir up prejudice against people – then we must cut off that use of our mouths.
We know from experience that when we are with certain people or places, we find ourselves acting in ways that we regret. Yet, we continue to go back to those dangerous situations because we tell ourselves that we are strong – that nothing will happen, We just want to have a good time. In the Lord’s prayer, we ask that we be not led into temptation and yet we often lead ourselves into temptation.
Sin often comes dressed in an adorable guise. It’s easy to say, “It will be different for me.” The results are certain. Jesus is looking out for our own good and wants our journey to be successful. He is telling us what we must leave behind. Just like my grandfather’s fishing trips, taking too many things on any kind of journey is never a good idea.
Prayer is the way in which we allow God to strengthen us and direct our lives. Then we are better able to resist giving in when situations arise that could lead to sin.