Calvin Coolidge was known as a man of few words. When he returned home from Sunday services one morning, his wife asked him what the preacher had talked about. “Sin,” he replied. “What did he have to say about it?” she asked. Coolidge answered, “He’s against it.”
Good sermon, I would say. And so might our pastor, Fr. Dan, in accordance with his five Bs concerning a really good homily: “Be brief, brother, be brief.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus was not so brief, but he was succinct. He told his followers that it was better to cut off a hand or a foot, or pluck out an eye if those were going to lead us from God and toward eternal isolation.
When we read and hear today’s Gospel, let us put aside any notion that Jesus is advocating self-mutilation. He is advocating putting aside or casting away whatever may be tempting us to sin. He is, as He so often does, speaking metaphorically. Sin does not find its origin in our eyes, or in our hands or feet, but in our hearts and minds.
Jesus goes further: He emphasizes that leading our children away from God and into sin by teaching them falsely or by giving a bad example, we commit the most abominable of sins, and metaphorically it would be better if we would drown ourselves.
Hard metaphors, strong message.
The gentle, loving Jesus comes on strong. He is forgiving, but he does not consider sin to be a trivial matter.
Neither should we.