Today’s Gospel: Mark 9:41-50 – St. Polycarp
Today’s reading begins with praise for unity and charity, ends with peace and unity, and seems gruesomely fascinated with melodramatic self-mutilation in between. We are advised to chop ourselves to bits to avoid the fiery consumption of Gehenna (and let’s not delude ourselves – we’re talking about hell here), and yet in that little easily-missed heads-up toward the end we’re warned that everyone will be “salted with fire.” Not dunked in it, thrown to it, consumed by it — but salted with it. Just a sprinkling. Enough to tactically burn out the pride that keeps us from unity. Enough to cauterize the wounds in our soul where we are allowing our grace to fall wasted to the ground instead of flowing through us to others. Enough to heal and preserve. Are we actually supposed to make a grand show of purifying ourselves by lopping off body parts? That’s certainly one way to go about it. But the alternative is also given: allow ourselves to be seasoned by God’s gentle corrections in humility. “Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”
When I am disagreeing with someone, how often am I prone to the showy melodrama of “cutting off a hand or foot” to solve the problem rather than swallowing my pride with a sprinkling of fiery salt?
Lord, please help me prefer the seasoning of humility over my own rash solutions.
Copyright 2017 Marybeth Bishop
Marybeth is a wife and mother of five living in Annapolis, Maryland.