YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (1)

YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said, ‘If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out.’” (Mark 9:43, 45, 47)

BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

 

HOMILY:

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

“Jesus said, ‘If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out.’” (Mark 9:43, 45, 47)

“Residents of the neighborhood of Sunset Circle [in Fairfield, CT] say they have been terrorized by a crazy cat named Lewis. Lewis for his part has been uniquely cited, personally issued a restraining order by the town’s animal control officer. ‘He looks like Felix the Cat and has six toes on each foot, each with a long claw,’ a neighbor said. ‘They are formidable weapons.’

The neighbors said those weapons, along with catlike stealth, have allowed Lewis to attack at least a half dozen people and ambush the Avon lady as she was getting out of her car. [An] Animal Control Officer placed a restraining order on him. It was the first time such an action was taken against a cat in Fairfield. In effect, Lewis is under house arrest, forbidden to leave his home.” (Associated Press, March 31, 2006) Thursday of this week, October 4th, is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. Tales of Francis befriending beasts are to be found in the Fioretti or “Little Flowers,” a collection of beloved stories about St. Francis and his colleagues written during the earliest days of the Franciscan Order. But would St. Francis, I wonder, be up to tackling the seemingly untamable Lewis the cat?

The question is metaphorical, of course, but it leads us to a consideration of the relationship between people and animals. I’ve known people with the personality of Lewis the cat; likewise have I known animals with personalities so mild and gentle that I could only wish such for a few less than agreeable human acquaintances. And I’ve often enough been amazed at the tenderness with which grizzled characters treat their pets.

In short, as we consider what might have been the mind of God the Creator when we humans were placed side by side with animals, it can safely be said that, in many instances, people can bring out the animal in us, while animals can bring out the humanity in us.

In the gospel passage we hear today, we find Jesus addressing his disciples about the many roadblocks that can derail the pursuit of healthy and holy human relationships. Though the conversation begins with some controversy about the driving out of demons, Jesus quickly quells all debate by advising the disciples that they should not stand in the way of anyone performing a good deed. And in dramatic summary, Jesus concludes, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out.” (Mark 9:43, 45, 47) Because we’re all such frail mortals, we must admit that, were we to follow Jesus’ advice literally, the earth would be populated mostly by the hobbled and sight-impaired.

I’m guessing that we’ve all been, at one time or another, a stumbling block for others when they’ve looked to us for support or consolation and we’ve only magnified their distress. Further, I suppose we’ve all been guilty, at one time or another, of words and actions that tended to tear down rather than build up. The truth is that it’s sometimes been far easier to act like Lewis the cat than Jesus the Savior.

God, I believe, has ordained that companionable animals assist us in our challenging passage from here to heaven. Surely, Lewis the cat made it into the news because of his extreme unruly behavior. Indeed, most cats (and other domestic pets) are quite ordinary, quietly yet insistently calling their caregivers into relationships marked by gentleness, affection and loyalty. And once our demons have been tamed by the ministry of a loyal pet, we can then lavish that same care and gentleness on our human neighbors.

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