19 May, Thursday – Cutting Off Hands and Feet

19 May

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James 5:1-6

An answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days. Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.

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Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

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And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off.

How serious are you about going to heaven? What would you sacrifice to ensure your sanctity? Cutting off one’s hands and feet seem like an extreme case in this day. Of course, we are against mutilating our bodies but when we think about it, there are many things in our lives that we could cut off so we can ensure we can meet our Lord.

There are many versions of the Act of Contrition and one line struck me from one of the versions. The penitent, in expressing contrition, also resolves, with the help of God’s grace, ‘to avoid the near occasions of sin.’ We have to acknowledge that we are vulnerable beings with a tendency to sin and that we are not strong enough to resist temptation without God’s grace. So we need to have a battle plan to increase our chances of success: that is to cut off the parts in our lives that lead us to sin, to avoid these ‘near occasions of sin’. Is it your career? Is it a relationship? Is it an addiction?

I have been contemplating for several years if I should go back to the Philippines for good. But one of my considerations is whether I can enjoy the same spiritual support as I enjoy here in Singapore. It is true that Philippines is a Catholic country but because many are cradle Catholics, many of us take our faith for granted. As embarrassing as it can be, I end up neglecting my prayer life whenever I am on vacation in the Philippines. I know that when that happens, it will be easy to forget God and my relationship with Him. So as much as I want to go home, I need to cut off this dream for now and keep on praying for the strength to hold on to God should the time come when I am called back to the Philippines.

What one needs to cut off from one’s life may not be so ‘great’. Perhaps, it’s even just cutting down on TV time, or maybe, cutting down on the time you watch videos on your way home and instead, using that extra time to pray or to read up on our faith. We always have access to God’s graces in order to avoid temptation but I imagine ourselves to be like a cup — we are limited in the amount that we can hold. So if we need more graces, let’s empty our cups and ‘cut off’ those that prevent us from receiving God’s love.

I invite you, my friends, to pray to God to reveal to you what is it that you need to cut off from your life in order that you can be closer to God. And if you feel that he is asking you to cut off something big, practice by ‘cutting off’ something small. Perhaps, a small fast will help in increasing your generosity and spirit of surrender, until you are ready to totally ‘cut off’ that which is keeping you from God.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord, please shower me with the graces I need to overcome temptation. And if there is something you want me to ‘cut off’ from my life, give the the humility and the generosity to do so.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for always making your graces available to me. You have already conquered sin, help us conquer our personal sins. Amen.

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