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26th Sunday of Year B

VIDEO COMMENTARY

A commentary which explores Mark’s teaching on disciples in 9:38-48. Presented by Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA. — Download PDF

OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR

Key Points to the Readings

FIRST READING

Numbers 11:25-29

Moses shared his gifts among the people.

  • The first reading from Numbers addresses the individuals who assisted Moses in the leadership of the people.
  • The seventy elders have authority because God’s Spirit has been bestowed on them.
  • Moses reminds Joshua that the focus is to be on God and not on earthly leaders.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

SECOND READING

James 5:1-6

Let the rich be warned!

  • The letter from James reprimands Christians for their excessive concern with earthly riches.
  • These have become an obstacle to their faith.
  • Not only are they inordinately possessive of what they have accumulated, but they have grown rich at the expense of others.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

GOSPEL

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

Anyone who is not against us is for us.

  • John presumes that any person who is not part of the apostle’s group should not invoke Jesus’ name in ministry.
  • Jesus points out that anyone who recognizes his name whether or not the person belongs to the community, will be rewarded because the person honors Jesus’ name.
  • In the latter part of the passage Jesus uses highly figurative language to emphasize that nothing is more important than belonging to the reign of God, no matter what the cost.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

CATHOLIC PRODUCTIONS
READ THE TRANSCRIPT

So let me just press pause there for a minute before we move on, move any further. It has become popular in recent years — in fact I just saw the other day someone commenting on this — to say the Bible isn’t that concerned with the fate of individuals, and it certainly isn’t that concerned with the whole issue of hell. That’s something that’s a medieval concern that the Catholic Church has made up, but if you look at the Bible itself, the Bible isn’t really worried about the individual fate of believers or the eternal punishment of individuals. I have to respond to that claim, and just point out, that is completely false, right. Not only is the eternal fate of individuals a major priority of Scripture as a whole, it’s a major priority of Jesus himself, right. Again, no one talks about Gehenna or hell in the New Testament more than Jesus himself. He speaks about hell more times than the rest of the entire New Testament combined, precisely because Christ loves every single human being, because he doesn’t want any human being to spend eternity separated from him and separated from God and to experience the pain of that eternal separation, which he’s describing here through the images of fire and eternal corruption and eternal, everlasting death. I mean these are serious, serious issues here. So Jesus is drawing on Jewish tradition, using Jewish images to describe this spiritual reality of eternal separation from God and he’s essentially telling us in the gospel for today, do whatever it takes to avoid being separated from God forever. Do whatever it takes to avoid ending up in the fires of Gehenna rather than the kingdom of God.

You might have noticed that too, what is the antithesis of Gehenna? What is the opposite of Gehenna? Well Jesus said, it’s better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye then with both eyes to be cast into the fires of Gehenna. So these are the two possible fates for every human being, we can either enter into the kingdom of God and be with him forever, or we can enter into the fires of Gehenna and be separated from him forever. Those are the two possibilities that every human being has to stand before, and Jesus is saying if anything impedes your entry into the kingdom of God, if there’s any obstacle to you being united with God forever in an eternal union of communion and happiness and joy, then you have to root out that obstacle, you have to cut off that impediment to entering into the kingdom of God…

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SUNDAY COMMENTARY (PDF)

SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese.
Niell Donavan

Sermon Writer

FIRST READING

NUMBERS 11:24-25. MOSES GATHERED SEVENTY ELDERS

NUMBERS 11:26-30. THE SPIRIT RESTED ON ELDAD AND MEDAD

NUMBERS 11:31-35. NOT IN THE LECTIONARY READING

GOSPEL

MARK 9:38-41. WHOEVER IS NOT AGAINST US IS ON OUR SIDE

MARK 9:42-48. STUMBLING BLOCKS & LITTLE ONES

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

  1. SCRIPTURE IN DEPTH: Preaching the Lectionary
  2. THE WORD EMBODIED: Perils of Wealth
  3. HISTORICAL CULTURAL CONTEXT: Importance of Loyalty
  4. LET THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK: Psychic Surgery?
  5. SPIRITUALITY OF THE READINGS: The Inside Story
  6. GLANCING THOUGHTS: Tribalism
  7. THE PERSPECTIVE OF JUSTICE: At the Same Table

26th Sunday of Year B

FIRST READING

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

The Gift of God’s Spirit to the Elders

Appointment of Seventy Elders

Moses spoke to God about the burden of his responsibility to care for the people’s material and spiritual well-being, serving as their covenant mediator and teacher of the Law (Num 11:11-15). In response to his complaint, Yahweh appointed seventy elders to aid Moses in teaching the people and assisting with their needs. These may be the same seventy men who attended the sacred meal sealing the covenant ratification ceremony in Exodus 24:19-10.


Charism of God’s Holy Spirit

Numbers 11:17-29 repeats the word ruah, meaning “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit,” five times (1725262931), referring to the charism of God’s Holy Spirit. Five is the symbolic number signifying power and grace in Scripture (see the document “The Significance of Numbers in Scripture.”

When God put His Spirit upon the elders, they only uttered prophesy once, not in the sense of foretelling but speaking in enraptured enthusiasm (see 1 Sam 10:10ff; 19:20ff; Acts 2:6, 11, 17; 19:6; 1 Cor 12-14). The elders received an initial anointing of the Spirit of God and the gift of enraptured utterance to show the people they were divinely appointed.


Eldad and Medad

Two of the seventy elders, Eldad and Medad, did not join the others for unknown reasons. Perhaps they were ill or caring for a child or relative. Whatever the reason, God did not penalize them for their failure to attend the gathering and the divine anointing at the Sanctuary, and He blessed them with His spiritual anointing. Eldad and Medad also received the blessing of God’s anointing and spoke enraptured utterances within the Israelite camp, which annoyed Joshua, the servant of Moses. When he complained and advised Moses to stop them, Moses replied: “Are you jealous for my sake?  Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” One must not criticize or be jealous of God generously bestowing His spiritual gifts.

Eldad and Medad not being part of the publically anointed ecclesial community of elders did not prevent God’s Spirit from manifesting Himself upon them. God’s Spirit is without limit; therefore, His Spirit that was on Moses did not lessen when distributed to the seventy elders. St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote that God distributes His gifts according to the capacity of the recipient, even to those who are outside the ecclesial assembly (St. Cyril, Catechetical Lecture 16.25). Thus, the Holy Spirit qualifies all men and women who receive the Sacrament of Baptism and strive to live righteous lives to serve the Church in many ministries as members of the priesthood of believers. Like Eldad and Medad, they teach “within the camp”/within the congregation, as CCD teachers for children and Bible study leaders for adults, serving among the laity who are members of the “priesthood of believers” (CCC 114111431248127315411546-70).


Ordained Ministry of the New Covenant, Prefigurement of

The Church sees the priesthood of Aaron, the service of the Levites, and the institution of the seventy elders as prefiguring the ordained ministry of the New Covenant. At the same time, Eldad and Medad represent the priesthood of believers of the New Covenant people who also serve. God fulfilled the desire of Moses “that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” when on Pentecost Sunday in AD 30, the Holy Spirit filled and indwelled the New Covenant community praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. He gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit to fulfill their mission to carry the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth (Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15-16; Lk 24:47).  The indwelling of God’s Spirit to the community of believers came fifty days after Jesus’ Resurrection and ten days after His Ascension (as the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place value) in the birth of the New Covenant Church.  It is a spiritual gift each newly reborn Christian receives in the Sacrament of Baptism and is a divine gift only bestowed once (CCC 6911272).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

The Lord Upholds My Life

Response: The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

The superscription attributes this psalm to David; God’s anointed King of Israel and the ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 1:1; Lk 1:30-33). The psalmist demonstrates his understanding of how unconfessed sins damage one’s loving relationship with God as he recognizes the necessity of sincere confession and humble repentance to restore fellowship with his Lord (also see Psalm 51).


The Law of the Lord

The psalmist declares he trusts the Law of the Lord, which serves as a tutor and guide for living an upright life (verses 8 and 10). As the Lord’s anointed servant, he says that he is careful to avoid sin. He is committed to obedience to God’s Law, but at the same time, he recognizes that human beings are fallible. Therefore, he pleads with the Lord to reveal any sins he has unknowingly or careless committed so he can confess and receive God’s forgiveness (verses 12-13).


Psalmist Petitions Lord not to Let Sin Rule Over Him

Under the Law of the Sinai Covenant, the blood ritual of animal sacrifice could only provide forgiveness for careless or unintentional sins (Num 15:22-29). There was no forgiveness for intentional sins for the community or the individual because no animal was holy enough to provide atonement for willful sins that are rebellion against God (Num 15:30-31). The psalmist is aware that sins in his life will keep him from being the good servant God wants, and he petitions the Lord not to let sin rule over him. With God’s help and a humble and contrite heart, he can be “blameless and innocent” of serious moral offenses against his Lord (verse 14).


God Opens His Mercy to Humanity

Since there was no means of forgiveness for intentional sins, the gates of Heaven remained closed to humanity from the time of Adam’s fall from grace (CCC 5361026). Then, with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), God opened His mercy to humanity. He did this with a pure and holy sacrifice in the atoning death of God the Son, providing for the first time in salvation history the forgiveness of intentional/mortal sins.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

SECOND READING

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

A Warning for the Wealthy and Self-confided

St. James was the first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem and a brother/relative of Jesus; the term “brother” referred to relations who were full brothers, half and step-brothers, and cousins (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor 15:7; Gal 1:19; Jude 1). He opens this passage with a harsh rebuke for the wealthy. His rebuke recalls the warnings of the Old Testament prophets to the rich. For example, see the prophet Isaiah’s condemnation of wealthy Israelites who are selfish and uncaring concerning the conditions of the poor within the covenant community in Isaiah 5:8-16. Compare the condemnation of St. James for the uncaring wealthy to Jesus’s warning for the complacent rich in His Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6:19-21) and warning of divine judgment in His Sermon on the Plain (Lk 6:24-26). In Jesus’s Sermon on Mount, He said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:19-21).  And in His Sermon on the Plain, Jesus addressed the wealthy, saying: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way (Lk 6:24-26).


Warning to the Rich

St. James gives a dire warning to the rich, the proud, and the self-sufficient who give no thought to the hardships of others and the good they could do with their wealth. In 5:1, James used the same Greek word for “weep” as in James 4:9, Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. However, in that passage, the weeping was a sign of repentance, while in this passage, the weeping is a sign of the fear the rich should feel when facing God’s judgment.


Four Accusations

James charges the wealthy with being boastful in declaring their self-sufficiency, their independence of God, and refusing to do what they know is right and just. He brings four charges against them in 5:2-3, 4a, 5, and 6:

  1. When their life on earth is over, they cannot take their wealth with them, but their wealth will testify against them when they face God’s divine judgment.
  2. The cries of those they defrauded will speak against them at their judgment.
  3. Their earthly excesses will only increase their punishment in judgment.
  4. They are like those who murdered the Messiah.

The First Charge Against the Wealthy

We can reduce his four accusations against the uncaring wealthy to two charges: they lived a life of excessive luxury and oppressed the poor.

In the first charge in 5:3, St. James lashes out against the rich with a dire prediction: your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire.  You have stored up treasure for the last days.  James says in 5:3c that it is like a fire which they have stored up for the “final days.” Like those James condemned, we also live in the Messianic Age of the New Covenant, the Final Age of humanity. In Hebrew, this age is called the acharit-hayamim, “the end of days” (see 2 Cor 6:2; Amos 2:6-7; 8:4-8; Mt 6:19; Acts 2:14-21).

St. Bede the Venerable wrote that the sin of the rich and proud is that they put their trust in themselves:

“God punishes robbers, perjurers, gluttons and other sinners because they are in contempt of his commandments, but it is said that he resists the proud in a special way. This is because those who trust in their own strength, who neglect to submit themselves to God’s power, who really think that they can almost save themselves and therefore have no time to seek help from above; these are all deserving of greater punishments. On the other hand, God gives grace to the humble because they recognize their need and ask him for help to overcome the plague of their sins, and for this reason, they deserve to be healed” (Concerning the Epistle of St. James).

Today, as in the days of St. James, the superior position of the rich assures them of their power and authority, and the perils are not apparent to them. However, on Judgment Day, they will stand before the throne of God when the Lord judges the success or failure of one’s life, not by material possessions and wealth, but on the exercise of mercy, generosity, and love. On that Day of Judgment, works without merit will be burned up. God will purify those unproductive works in the flames of His fiery love, and only our good deeds will survive (1 Cor 3:12-15). Some will then pass through to the Beatific Presence of the Trinity in Heaven but with little to show for their lives on earth in the “silver and gold” of their righteous deeds. The text of 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 is one of those on which the Church formed the doctrine of Purgatory as a place of purification before entering into the Beatific Presence of God (see CCC# 1030-32). In Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 29:8(11) – 13(16), the inspired writer advises that it is more profitable for the rich to aid the poor and disadvantaged because it is God who will reward their investment. The truth is we cannot take our earthly wealth with us to the grave and beyond. At the hour of our divine judgment, only our good deeds and acts of mercy will survive the fire of judgment.


The Second Charge Against the Wealthy

In verse 4, James levels his second charge against the selfish rich. It is interesting that James should use the ancient title for Yahweh, “the Lord of Hosts,” “Yahweh Sabaoth” in the Hebrew texts. The title refers to Yahweh as the divine commander of the forces that exist at His command throughout creation, including the heavenly armies of angels who serve Him. For the Jews of the Diaspora to whom James was writing, this ancient title would recall Yahweh’s role as the Divine Commander and leader of the armies of Israel out of Egypt. It also recalls Yahweh’s role in guiding Joshua, who served as the Israelite leader in the conquest of the Promised Land. The title also recalls Yahweh’s protection of David in his battles against the forces of the Philistines (for example, see 1 Sam 4:4; Ps 24:10; 46:7; 89:7-8).  In the New Testament, this unique term only occurs twice. St. James uses it in James 5:4 and St. Paul in Romans 9:29, where he compares the holy remnant of New Covenant Israel to the holy remnant of Israel that Yahweh Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts) preserved during the conquests and exiles, quoting Isaiah 1:9 in Romans 9:29. There are 290 references to God as “Yahweh Sabaoth” or “God Sabaoth” or “Yahweh God Sabaoth” in the Catholic canon of the Bible.

In 5:4, James makes a connection to Leviticus chapter 19. According to the Law in Leviticus 19:13, a laborer in the fields must receive payment at sundown when the Jewish day ended and the next day began. Whether or not a laborer received his pay probably determined if he would eat that day. To withhold the laborer’s wage meant he and his family would go hungry while the rich man filled his stomach. The Bible repeats the command to treat laborers fairly in Deuteronomy 24:14-15 and Malachi 3:5, where the Malachi text uses Yahweh’s title “Sabaoth.” St. James may have been alluding to the passage in Malachi: I am coming to put you on trial, and I shall be a ready witness against sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, and against those who oppress the wage-earner, the widow and the orphan, and who rob the foreigner of his rights and do not respect me, says Yahweh Sabaoth (Mal 3:5, NJB, bold added for emphasis).

The cries of those who suffer because of the abuses or neglect of the rich reached the Lord of Hosts, Yahweh Sabaoth, just as innocent Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground in Genesis 4:10 and the cries of the enslaved Israelites in Egypt in Exodus 3:7. St. James is making the point to remind the Jewish-Christians of their history. If God did not ignore the cries of the suffering and abused in the case of righteous Abel and the children of Israel suffering in Egypt, what makes them think God will ignore the cries of the oppressed now? James is saying, “If He came against their oppressors in the past with His divine judgment, will He not come against you now?  See CCC# 18672409 and 2434, which quotes James 5:4.

Those who God will come against are the ones to whom St. James makes his third accusation: You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter (verse 5). His imagery of luxury and slaughter is a comparison between self-indulgence and destruction or judgment. Just as animals destined for slaughter are force-fed to prepare them, the rich prepare themselves in indulgent living for their “slaughter” on their day or time of Divine Judgment. James’s accusation recalls Jesus’s parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Lk 16:19-31). The fate of the selfish rich man, who ignored the plight of poor Lazarus, is to suffer for his sins while Lazarus receives his just reward.

St. James’ 4th accusation is You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance. In his commentary on the Letter of St. James,  Father Hartin pointed out that the Greek verb katadikazein, “to condemn,” “reflects the legal context of a court where a judgment of condemnation is meted out” (Sacra Pagina: James, page 230). You should ask yourself, who is the epitome of the righteous man unjustly condemned but offered no resistance? Every upright son or daughter of God who is faithful and obedient to the Law of God and has suffered for the sake of faith in Christ Jesus is numbered among the “righteous” (see 1 Jn 2:29). However, 1 John 2:1 identifies Jesus as the only truly “Righteous One.” In Matthew’s account of Jesus’s trial, we learn that He offered no defense when unjustly condemned by the Jewish Sanhedrin (Mt 27:11-14) and later by the Roman governor, Pilate (as prophesied in Isaiah 53:7, and the Old Testament foreshadowing of Christ’s Passion in Wisdom 2:12-20).

Like those Old Testament passages, St. James may be referring to the Passion of the Christ who offered no resistance to his accusers and tormentors. Theophylact (c. AD 1050-1108), Byzantine Archbishop of Achrida, in what is today Bulgaria, in his Commentary on James 5:6, wrote: “It cannot be denied that this verse refers to Christ, especially since James adds that there was no resistance. Nevertheless, it also includes others who suffered at the hands of the Jews, and he may even have been speaking prophetically about his own approaching death.”

St. James the Just, Bishop of Jerusalem, like his kinsman Jesus, was also a righteous man murdered by wicked men to whom he offered no resistance. Thus, in this passage, St. James may not only be speaking of Jesus’s Passion but is perhaps speaking prophetically of his martyrdom.  In the 4th century AD, Bishop Eusebius recorded the circumstances surrounding the death of James from Church documents that contained eyewitness accounts of his martyrdom. The account records: “And when many were fully convinced and gloried in the testimony of James, and said, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ these same Scribes and Pharisees said again to one another, ‘We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him (James) down, in order that they may be afraid to believe in him.’ And they cried out saying, ‘Oh! Oh! The just man is also in error.’ And they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah; ‘Let us take away the just man because he is troublesome to us: therefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings.’ So they went up and threw down the just man and said to each other, ‘Let us stone James the Just.’ And they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned and knelt down, and said, ‘I entreat thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do'” (Church History, Eusebius Book I, XXIII. 13-16).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

GOSPEL

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

The Freedom to Proclaiming Christ and Temptations to Sin

An unnamed man’s success has sparked the jealousy of the Apostles, who were unsuccessful in casting a demon out of the boy earlier. Jesus’s point in telling John and the others to let the man heal in His name is that the ministers of His Kingdom are not “exclusive” but “inclusive.” There is no room for jealousy in the spiritual warfare necessary to advance the Kingdom of the Messiah.

This incident is reminiscent of Joshua’s complaint to Moses in the First Reading. Joshua complained that two men in the camp who had not received Moses’s special anointing were also filled with the Spirit of God and were prophesying in the Israelite camp (Num 11:24-29). Moses rebuked Joshua in the same way Jesus rebuked John.

Judgement Against Those Who Lead Children into Sin

Still holding the little child on His lap (see Mk 9:36), Jesus pronounces a divine judgment against anyone who seeks to lead “a child,” someone who believes in Him, into sin. In this passage, the Greek verb skandalizo refers to what causes one to stumble into sin. This is a Greek term from which we get our words “scandalize” and “scandal.”  The image of the child on Jesus’s lap changes to the “little ones who believe in me” in verse 42. Jesus is no longer talking about the child on His lap. Instead, He is referring to the “children” of His Kingdom of the Church, those who believe in Him and accept Him as their Lord and Savior (see 1 Jn 3:1-2).

In 9:36-37, the Greek word paidion (a child under twelve) refers to an actual child. But then Jesus changes to a metaphor in verse 42 that functions as a synonym for the disciples who are the “little ones” who believe in Him. The judgment Jesus pronounces against those who cause His believers to “stumble” into sin or lose their faith appears in all three Synoptic Gospels (also, see Mt 18:6 and Lk 17:2).


Drowning of the Wicked

The Greek text reads “a donkey millstone.”  It was the kind of millstone that was so huge that it took a donkey to turn it. The judgment imagery of a “donkey-millstone” thrown into the sea also appears in Revelation 18:21-22. Such ultimate destruction is the judgment awaiting all unrepentant sinners and enemies of God who add to human suffering or seek to destroy the faith of the “children” of His Kingdom, even those ordained to service in His Kingdom of the Church. Such a person immersed in sin and threatening the faith of children of Christ’s Kingdom will suffer the same fate as sin itself when God will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins (Mic 7:19).

Several Scripture passages from the Old and New Testaments mention judgments by drowning the wicked or enemies of God (see Gen 6:5-7; 7:11-12, 17 and 22; Ex 14:26-28 and Neh 9:11; Mk 5:14; Rev 18:21):

  1. The wicked who drowned in the Great Flood judgment.
  2. The Egyptian Pharaoh and his army drowning in the Red Sea in the Exodus liberation.
  3. The demons Jesus cast into the herd of swine in Mark 5:14.
  4. The judgment on the wicked city, symbolically called “Babylon.”

“Babylon” became the symbolic code name for any city of great wickedness. In the Book of Revelation (Rev 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10 and 21), “Babylon” refers to Jerusalem, the city that condemned Jesus to death and in which was found the blood of prophets and holy ones (Rev 18:24; also see what Jesus said about divine judgment on Jerusalem in Mt 23:31-39).


Jesus’ Use of Hyperbole

In verses 43-47, Jesus is not speaking literally; He uses hyperbole to make the point that one must do whatever it takes to avoid sin and therefore avoid eternal damnation. If someone brings scandal to Jesus’s “children,” the person or persons who are the agent/agents of the sin will not be able to avoid bearing responsibility for their actions. They may escape human/civil judgment, but they will not escape divine judgment!

In this passage, Jesus describes Gehenna as a place of “unquenchable fire” (for other references to Gehenna, see Mt 5:22, 29, 30, 10:28; 23:15 and 33). Jesus uses the word Gehenna as a metaphor for the place or state where the wicked are doomed to eternal fiery punishment, often referred to as “the Hell of the damned.”  See CCC 1033-361861, and the study entitled: “The Eight Last Things,” Lesson IV.

Jesus makes three profound statements about sin and its impact:

  1. Jesus says that anyone who causes one who believes in Him to fall into sin will face divine judgment.
  2. God severely punishes acts of evil.
  3. The punishment for unconfessed mortal sin is eternal death.

Jesus sums up His comments on sin by saying that it not only causes others to stumble into error and brings suffering to the world, but one must avoid sin at all costs because it can ultimately lead to eternal death in Gehenna, the “fiery pit” and “Hell of the damned” created for Satan and his demons.


Hell’s Unbearable Torment

This passage recalls Isaiah’s image of divine judgment and Hell’s unbearable torment. He wrote, They shall go out and see the corpses of men who rebelled against me; their worm shall not die, nor their fire be extinguished, and they shall be abhorrent to all mankind (Is 66:24). The imagery Isaiah uses describes God’s enemies who are dead outside the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem; just as in the past, corpses and filth lay in the Valley of Gehenna outside the city of the earthly Jerusalem, where fires burned continually.

Many people, even Christians, find the Hell of everlasting separation from God a difficult concept to grasp. However, the teachings of Scripture and the Church affirm the existence of Hell and its eternal dimension. The chief punishment of Hell is eternal separation from God, where the unrepentant person, lost in mortal sin, suffers the penalty of eternal fire. The Catholic Church teaches that God does not predestine anyone to Hell (CCC 1037), and the choice of eternal life or eternal damnation is the personal choice of every individual based on their choices in life (see Mt 25:31-46 and CCC 1033-36). The destiny God has planned for every human being is eternal life, and He is not willing that anyone should perish; the choice of our ultimate destiny is entirely our own (2 Pt 3:9; 1 Tim 2:3-4).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

26th Sunday of Year B

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

Care of Responsible Shepherds

James 5:2,5 NLT
You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.

JAMES 5:1-6  Some of us may wonder why we have to give up our pursuit of pleasure. Often people living for wealth and pleasure seem to be happier than we are. James reminded his audience that a selfish lifestyle inevitably leads to painful consequences. Some of us have already experienced the pain and emptiness brought on by selfish pleasures. A selfish lifestyle never yields lasting joy and peace; it always leads to some kind of bondage. When we make God’s will our own and follow his program, we experience freedom and become a blessing to others.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Interpersonal Relationships

Mark 9:40 NLT
Anyone who is not against us is for us.

MARK 9:38-42 Cooperation and peace, not cutthroat competition, must characterize our interpersonal relationships. Jesus instructed his disciples to fully and peacefully accept others who ministered in his name. He accepted those not under his own direct authority but who were building up the Kingdom of God. So must we. If we fail to do so and cause others to lose their faith, we will suffer the painful consequences.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Taking Drastic Measures

Mark 9:47 NLT
And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,

MARK 9:43-50 Through a series of startling statements, Jesus admonished his disciples to get rid of anything in their lives that might draw them away from God. For us, this could refer to our besetting addiction and the emotional baggage that supports it. We can identify our weaknesses by making an honest moral inventory of our life and then take action to “cut off” our offensive parts so we can begin the process of healing. It is usually wise to have the help of a support group as we follow through on such drastic measures.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

PREACHER’S COMMENTARY

Relating to Disciples Who Are Different: “We” vs. “Them”

Labels are attached to denominations, theological differences, and ministerial styles that put people just outside the circle of true faith.

MARK 9:38-50  John tips the answer to his own question when he reports, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us” (v. 38). For John, the crux of the issue is the fact that the unnamed exorcist does not belong to the company of the Twelve. For Jesus, the issue centers in the fact that His name is invoked and devils are cast out. Whoever the exorcist, he accurately perceives the power of Jesus’ name and in that name performs miracles. Jesus’ own disciples had failed precisely in these points just days before when they stood powerless before the demons who possessed the epileptic boy. So, applying the twofold test of invoking His name and casting out demons, Jesus opens the circle of discipleship to admit a stranger by saying, “For he who is not against us is on our side” (v. 40).

“We” vs. “them” is a common fault, even among Christians. Labels are attached to denominations, theological differences, and ministerial styles that put people just outside the circle of true faith. On more than one occasion, I have felt the sting of discrimination within the circle of faith when brothers of a different theological tradition accept me up to a point and then draw a line. With tongue in cheek, I have likened myself in these moments to a black man who moves into a white neighborhood, “He’s a nice guy and a brother in Christ, but I wouldn’t want him to marry my daughter.” Presumably, theological values in the neighborhood will go down if I move in.

Labels of “we” and “them” are reserved for distinctions between Christians and the world. They have no place in the kingdom of God, particularly when disciples share His name and show His miracles.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher’s Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God’s Word.

PREACHER’S COMMENTARY

Relating to Disciples Who Are Needy: “Ours” vs. “Theirs”

Within the body of Christ, we have a responsibility for each other.

MARK 9:38-50 Needs vary as much as ideas among the disciples of Christ. Some are rich and some are poor. Some have all their wants supplied and others have few of their needs met. So, within the body of Christ, we have a responsibility for each other. Is it too radical to assume that no Christian should be naked, thirsty, or hungry as long as other Christians have clothes, water, and food?

Putting the question in unmistakable terms, Jesus places eternal value upon a cup of water given in His name. Great and humble tasks merge in the kingdom of God. Almost daily, I drive past our church on the way to the president’s office of a Christian university. Vice presidents are waiting to see me and secretaries are waiting to serve me. At my fingertips are computers, word processors, three telephone lines, a dictating machine, and an instant intercom. Yet, as I drive past the church, I see the wisp of a gray-haired woman bending over the shrubs with pruning shears in her hand and a lawn basket at her back. Her ministry is to keep the lawn of God’s house worthy of His name. Her task is as simple and as humble as giving a cup of water in Jesus’ name. I pray each day that God will give me the honor of following her through the gates into His kingdom.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher’s Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God’s Word.

PREACHER’S COMMENTARY

Relating to Disciples Who Are Weak: “Me” vs. “You”

Three times, Jesus warns against offending the least of those in the kingdom of God.

Jesus’ disciples range along a wide spectrum of spiritual maturity. Those who are blessed with seniority, experience, insight, and leadership in the kingdom have a special responsibility to those who are “babes in Christ.” In fact, Jesus goes so far as to make the disciples’ accountability for weaker members of the body a matter of eternal life and death. Whatever the sacrifice, a disciple dare not put a stumbling block or an ensnaring trap along the growth line of a new, weak, or struggling believer. The attitude of “me” vs. “you” has no part in the kingdom of God. Therefore, the stronger disciple will discipline the work of his hands, the way of his feet, and the watch of his eyes with the least of God’s children in mind. And if necessary, the stronger disciple will perform radical surgery on the things he does, the direction he pursues, and the views he takes in order to avoid offending a weaker brother. Paul follows this principle when he refuses to eat meat offered to idols, not because of his convictions about the meat, but because of his concern for new believers who still struggle to shake off the remnants of idolatry.

Three times, Jesus warns against offending the least of those in the kingdom of God. Each time, He calls for the discipline of radical surgery on the hand, the foot, or the eye as the preferable alternative to hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (9:444648).

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher’s Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God’s Word.
AFRICA STUDY BIBLE

Do Not Be A Hindrance

We must rejoice when God uses others to build up his Kingdom, including those from different ethnic groups or social groups or those with different educational levels.

NUMBERS 11:26-29 – Some servants of God seem to think that they are the only ones who should receive God’s blessings and gifts for ministry. They are jealous when they see God using others. When Eldad and Medad began to prophesy, Joshua became jealous and asked Moses to make them stop. Like Joshua, those leaders in Africa who want to restrain or suppress other servants of God show their lack of spiritual maturity.

But unlike Joshua, Moses submitted himself to the Lord with humility and acknowledged that God gives gifts and abilities to whomever he wants for the glory of his name. We may find this truth hard to accept. Nevertheless, we must not hinder other people who receive and use their gifts to spread the gospel. We must rejoice when God uses others to build up his Kingdom, including those from different ethnic groups or social groups or those with different educational levels. And we should pray that he will do so often.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THE AFRICA STUDY BIBLE

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26th Sunday of Year B

MARK 9:38–42

38. And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

39. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

40. For he that is not against us is on our part.

41. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

42. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

ANNOTATED INDEX

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria

COMMENTARY

BEDE. (ubi sup.) John, loving the Lord with eminent devotion, thought that He who performed an office to which He had no right was to be excluded from the benefit of it. Wherefore it is said, And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) For many believers received gifts, and yet were, not with Christ, such was this man who cast out devils; for there were many of them deficient in some way; some were pure in life, but were not so perfect in faith; others again, contrariwise.

THEOPHYLACT. Or again, some unbelievers, seeing that the name of Jesus was full of virtue, themselves used it, and performed signs, though they were unworthy of Divine grace; for the Lord wished to extend His name even by the unworthy.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) It was not from jealousy or envy, however, that John wished to forbid him who cast out devils, but because he wished that all, who called on the name of the Lord, should follow Christ, and be one body with His disciples. But the Lord, however unworthy they who perform the miracles may be, incites others by their means to believe on Him, and induces themselves by this unspeakable grace to become better. Wherefore there follows: But Jesus said, Forbid him not.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) By which He shews that no one is to be driven away from that partial goodness which he possesses already, but rather to be stirred up to that which he has not as yet obtained.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) In conformity to this, He shews that he is not to be forbidden, adding immediately after, For there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. He says lightly, to meet the case of those who fell into heresy, such as were Simon and Menander, and Cerinthusk; not that they did miracles in the name of Christ, but by their deceptions had the appearance of doing them. But these others, though they do not follow us, cannot however set themselves to say any thing against us, because they honour My name by working miracles.

THEOPHYLACT. For how can he speak evil of Me, who draws glory from My name, and works miracles by the invocation of this very name. There follows, For he that is not against you is on your part.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evan. 4. 5.) We must take care that this saying of the Lord appear not to be contrary to that, where He says, He who is not with me is against me. (Luke 11:23) Or will any one say that the difference lies in that here He says to His disciples, For he that is not against you is on your part, but in the other He speaks of Himself, He who is not with me is against me? As if indeed it were possiblel that he who is joined to Christ’s disciples, who are as His members, should not be with Him. How if it were so, could it be true that he that receiveth you receiveth me? (Matt. 10:40) Or how is he not against Him, who is against His disciples? Where then will be that saying, He who despiseth you, despiseth me? But surely what is implied is, that a man is not with Him in as far as he is against Him, and is not against Him in as far as he is with Him. For instance, he who worked miracles in the name of Christ, and yet did not join himself to the body of His disciples, in as far as he worked the miracles in His name, was with them, and was not against them: again, in that he did not join their society, he was not with them, and was against them. But because they forbade his doing that in which he was with them, the Lord said unto them, Forbid him not; for they ought to have forbidden his being without their society, and thus to have persuaded him of the unity of the Church, but they should not have forbidden that in which he was with them, that is, his commendation of the name of their Lord and Master by the expulsion of devils. Thus the Church Catholic does not disapprove in heretics the sacraments, which are common, but she blames their division, or some opinion of theirs adverse to peace and to truth; for in this they are against us.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) Or else, this is said of those who believe on Him, but nevertheless do not follow Him from the looseness of their lives. Again, it is said of devils, who try to separate all from God, and to disperse His congregation. There follows, For whosoever shall give you a cup of cold water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.

THEOPHYLACT. Not only will I not forbid him who works miracles in My name, but also whosoever shall give you the smallest thing for My name’s sake, and shall receive you, not on account of human and worldly favour, but from love to Me, shall not lose his reward.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evan. 4. 6) By which He shews, that he of whom John had spoken was not so far separated from the fellowship of the disciples, as to reject it, as a heretic, but as men are wont to hang back from receiving the Sacraments of Christ, and yet favour the Christian name, so as even to succour Christians, and do them service only because they are Christians. Of these He says they shall not lose their reward; not that they ought already to think themselves secure on account of this good will which they have towards Christians, without being washed with His baptism, and incorporated in His unity, but that they are already so guided by the mercy of God, as also to attain to these, and thus to go away from this life in security.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) And that no man may allege poverty, He mentions that, of which none can be destitute, that is, a cup of cold water, for which also he will obtain a reward; for it is not the value of the gift, but the dignity of those who receive it, and the feelings of the giver, which makes a work worthy of reward. His words shew that His disciples are to be received, not only on account of the reward, which he who receives them obtains, but also, because he thus saves himself from punishment. There follows: And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea: as though He would say,1 All who honour you for My sake have their reward, so also those who dishonour you, that is, offend you, shall receive the worst of vengeance. Further, from things which are palpable to us, He describes an intolerable torment, making mention of a millstone, and of being drowned; and He says not, let a millstone be hanged about his neck, but, it is better for him to suffer this, shewing by this that some more heavy evil awaits him. But He means by little ones that believe on Me, not only those who follow Him, but those who call upon His name, those also who offer a cup of cold water, though they do not any greater works. Now He will have none of these offended or plucked away; for this is what is meant by forbidding them to call upon His name.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) And fitly the man who is offended is called a little one, for he who is great, whatever he may suffer, departs not from the faith; but he who is little and weak in mind looks out for occasions of stumbling. For this reason we must most of all look to those who are little ones in the faith, lest by our fault they should be offended, and go back from the faith, and fall away from salvation.

GREGORY. (in Ezech. 1. Hom. 7) We must observe, however, that in our good works we must sometimes avoid the offence of our neighbour, sometimes look down upon it as of no moment. For in as far as we can do it without sin, we ought to avoid the offence of our neighbour; but if a stumblingblock is laid before men in what concerns the truth, it is better to allow the offence to arise, than that the truth should be abandoned.

GREGORY. (de cura past. p. i. c. 2) Mystically by a millstone is expressed the tedious round and toil of a secular life, and by the depths of the sea, the worst damnation is pointed out. He who therefore, after having been brought to a profession of sanctity, destroys others, either by word or example, it had been indeed better for him that his worldly deeds should render him liable to death, under a secular garb, than that his holy office should hold him out as an example for others in his faults, because doubtless if he had fallen alone, his pain in hell would have been of a more endurable kind.

MARK 9:43–50

43. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

44. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

45. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:

46. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

47. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:

48. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

49. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.

50. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.

COMMENTARY

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Because the Lord had taught us not to offend those who believe on Him, He now as next in order warns us how much we should beware of those who offend us, that is, who by their words or conduct strive to drag us into the perdition of sin; wherefore He says, And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Matt. 59) He says not this of our limbs, but of our intimate friends, whom as being necessary to us we look upon as our limbs; for nothing is so hurtful as mischievous society.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) That is, He calls by the name of hand, our intimate friend, of whose aid we daily stand in need; but if such an one should wish to do us a hurt in what concerns our soul, he is to be driven away from our society, lest by choosing a portion in this life with one who is lost, we should perish together with him in that which is to come. Where fore there follows, It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to enter into hell.

GLOSS. (non occ.) By maimed He means, deprived of the help of some friend, for it is better to enter into life without a friend, than to go with him into hell.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Or else, It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, that is, without the chief place, for which you have wished, than having two hands to go into eternal fire. The two hands for high station are humility and pride; cut off pride, keeping to the estate of lowliness.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) Then He introduces the witness of prophecy from the prophet Isaiah, saying, Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (Isa. 66:24) He says not this of a visible worm, but He calls conscience, a worm, gnawing the soul for not having done any good thing; for each of us shall be made his own accuser, by calling to mind what he has done in this mortal life, and so their worm remains for ever.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) And as the worm is the pain which inwardly accuses, so the fire is a punishment which rages without us; or by the worm is meant the rottenness of hell, by the fire, its heat.

AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, 21.9) But those who hold that both of these, namely, the fire and the worm, belong to the pains of the soul, and not of the body, say also that those who are separated from the kingdom of God are tortured, as with fire, by the pangs of a soul, repenting too late, and hopelessly; and they not unfitly contend that fire may be put for that burning grief, as says the Apostle, Who is offended, and I burn not? (2 Cor. 11:29) They also think that by the worm must be understood the same grief, as is said: As a moth destroys a garment, and a worm wood, so grief tortures the heart of man. (Prov. 25:20. vulg.) All those who hesitate not to affirm that there will be pain both of body and soul in that punishment, affirm that the body is burnt by the fire. But although this is more credible, because it is absurd that there either the pains of body or of soul should be wanting, still I think that it is easier to say that both belong to the body than that neither; and therefore it seems to me that Holy Scripture in this place is silent about the pains of the soul, because it follows that the soul also is tortured in the pains of the body. Let each man therefore choose which he will, either to refer the fire to the body, the worm to the soul, the one properly, the other in a figure, or else both properly to the body; for living things may exist even in fire, in burnings without being wasted, in pain without death, by the wondrous power of the Almighty Creator. It goes on: And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feel to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm, dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) A friend is called a foot, on account of its service in going about for us, since he is as it were ready for our use. It goes on: And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. A friend who is useful, and anxious, and sharp in perception, is called an eye.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evan. 4. 6) Here truly it appears that they who do acts of devotedness in the name of Christ, even before they have joined themselves to the company of Christians, and have been washed in the Christian Sacraments, are more useful than those who though already bearing the name of Christians, by their doctrine drag their followers with themselves into everlasting punishment; whom also under the name of members of the body, He orders, as an offending eye or hand, to be torn from the body, that is, from the fellowship itself of unity, that we may rather come to everlasting life without them, than with them go into hell. But the separation of those who separate themselves from them consists in the very circumstance of their not yielding to them, when they would persuade them to evil, that is, offend them. If indeed their wickedness becomes known to all the good men, with whom they are connected, they are altogether cut off from all fellowship, and even from partaking in the heavenly Sacraments. If however they are thus known only to the smaller number, whilst their wickedness is unknown to the generality, they are to he tolerated in such a way that we should not consent to join in their iniquity, and that the communion of the good should not be deserted on their account.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) But because the Lord had three times made mention of the worm and the fire, that we might be able to avoid this torment, He subjoins, For every one shall be salted with fire. For the stink of worms always arises from the corruption of flesh and blood, and therefore fresh meat is seasoned with salt, that the moisture of the blood may be dried off, and so it may not breed worms. And if, indeed, that which is salted with salt, keeps off the putrefying worm, that which is salted with fire, that is, seasoned again with flames, on which salt is sprinkled, not only casts off worms, but also consumes the flesh itself. Flesh and blood therefore breed worms, that is, carnal pleasure, if unopposed by the seasoning of continence, produces everlasting punishment for the luxurious; the stink of which if any man would avoid, let him take care to chasten his body with the salt of continence, and his mind with the seasoning of wisdom, from the stain of error and vice. For salt means the sweetness of wisdom, and fire, the grace of the Holy Spirit. He says therefore, Every one shall be salted with fire, because all the elect ought to be purged by spiritual wisdom, from the corruption of carnal concupiscence. Or else, the fire is the fire of tribulation, by which the patience of the faithful is proved, that it may have its perfect work.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) Similar to this is that which the Apostle says, And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. (1 Cor. 3:13.) Afterwards he brings in a witness from Leviticus: which says, And every oblation of thy meat offering shall thou season with salt. (Lev. 2:13.)

PSEUDO-JEROME. The oblation of the Lord is the race of man, which is here salted by means of wisdom, whilst the corruption of blood, the nurse of rottenness, and the mother of worms, is being consumed, which there also shall he tried by the purgatorial firem.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) We may also understand the altar to be the heart of the elect, and the victims and sacrifices to be offered on the altar are good works. But in all sacrifices salt ought to be offered, for that is not a good work which is not purged by the salt of wisdom from all corruption of vain glory, and other evil and superfluous thoughts.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (v. Vict. Ant. in Cat.) Or else it is meant, that every gift of our victim, which is accompanied by prayer and the assisting of our neighbour, is salted with that divine fire, of which it is said, I am come to send fire on earth. (Luke 12:49.) Concerning which it is added: Salt is good; that is, the fire of love. But if the salt have lost his saltness, that is, is deprived of itself, and that peculiar quality, by which it is called good, where with will ye season it? For there is salt, which has saltness, that is, which has the fulness of grace; and there is salt, which has no saltness, for that which is not peaceful is salt unseasoned.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Or the good salt is the frequent hearing of God’s word, and the seasoning the hidden parts of the heart with the salt of spiritual wisdom.

THEOPHYLACT. For as salt preserves flesh, and suffers it not to breed worms, so also the discourse of the teacher, if it can dry up what is evil, constrains carnal men, and suffers not the undying worm to grow up in them. But if it be without saltness, that is, if its virtue of drying up and preserving be gone, with what shall it be salted?

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (v. Vict. Ant. in Cat.) Or, according to Matthew, the disciples of Christ are the salt, which preserves the whole world, resisting the rottenness which proceeds from idolatry and sinful fornication. For it may also be meant, that each of us has salt, in as far as he contains in himself the graces of God. Wherefore also the Apostle joins together grace and salt, saying, Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt. (Col. 4:6) For salt is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was able to preserve the whole earth, and made many to be salt in the earth: and if any of these be corrupted, (for it is possible for even the good to be changed into corruption,) they are worthy to be cast out.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Or otherwise; That salt is saltless which loves the chief place, and dares not rebuke others. Wherefore there follows, Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another. That is, let the love of your neighbour temper the saltness of rebuke, and the salt of justice season the love of your neighbour.

GREGORY. (De cura past. iii. c. 22) Or this is said against those whom greater knowledge, while it raises above their neighbours, cuts off from the fellowship of others; thus the more their learning increases, the more they unlearn the virtue of concord.

GREGORY. (Ibid. ii. 4) He also who strives to speak with wisdom should be greatly afraid, lest by his eloquence the unity of his hearers be thrown into confusion, lest, while he would appear wise, he unwisely cut asunder the bonds of unity.

THEOPHYLACT. Or else, he who binds himself to his neighbour by the tie of love, has salt, and in this way peace with his neighbour.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. 4. 6) Mark relates that the Lord said these things consecutively, and has put down some things omitted by every other Evangelist, some which Matthew has also related, others which both Matthew and Luke relate, but on other occasions, and in a different series of events. Wherefore it seems to me that our Lord repeated in this place discourses which He had used in other places, because they were pertinent enough to this saying of His, by which He prevented their forbidding miracles to be wrought in His name, even by him who followed Him not together with His disciples.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

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