TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD, WE MUST BE MADE NEW
(A biblical refection on THE 26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 27 September, 2015)
Gospel Reading: Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48
First Reading: Numbers 11:25-29; Psalms: Psalm 19:8,10,12-14; Second Reading: James 5:1-6
John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in My name will be able soon after to speak evil of Me. For he that is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48 RSV)
The promise of entering God’s Kingdom (both now and in eternity) has been made available to all from the least to the greatest through Jesus’ death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We, who we were once cut off from God because of our sin, are invited to become participants in the intimate love shared between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is gathering a people to Himself and He yearns for that people.
In order to enter God’s Kingdom, however, we must be made new. Our old sinful nature has been put to death with Jesus on the cross, but we have to bring our own lives into line with that truth. We must decide: Will we accept God’s invitation of an intimate relationship with Him, or will we choose to forfeit life with God and seek instead to store up perishable treasures for ourselves?
Using Semitic hyperbole to show the seriousness of His words, Jesus exhorts us to be willing to lose a hand, a foot, or even an eye in this life, rather than to be “thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:47-48 RSV). God wants all people to live in union with Him. , Jesus prayed: “The glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one. I in them and Thou in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me and hast loved them even as Thou hast love Me” (John 17:22-23 RSV).
God wants nothing to prevent us from entering His Kingdom. Without enlightenment from the indwelling Holy Spirit, we cannot begin to fathom “what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 RSV). We must trust that God knows that nothing in this world can provide us with enduring satisfaction except being with Him in His Kingdom. Let us not be like the guests at the wedding banquet who missed out on the great celebration because they were too busy with their own affairs (see Matthew 22:1-14).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You show Your almighty power in Your mercy and forgiveness. Continue to fill us with Your gifts of love. Help us to hurry toward the eternal life You promise and come to share in the joys of Your Kingdom. We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 25 September 2015
A Christian Pilgrim