This morning we have to wrestle with the question: is there something in my life that distracts me from living my life as God intended that I need to cut out? It’s a ruthless image that we find in our Gospel reading: gouge out an eye, cut off a hand – all of that is better than taking the road to hell. And it really does need to be that ruthless. Because hell is real and it’s not going to be pleasant. So we really need to attach ourselves to Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. And whatever gets in the way of that needs to be brutally ejected from our lives.
Yes, that might hurt sometimes. But, as the cliché goes, whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Saint Paul is a good model of that: he was constantly subjected to torture and imprisonment and death, but he considered that as gain so that he might have Christ. And in today’s first reading, he testifies that all he endures is manifesting the sufferings of Jesus in his flesh, for the benefit of the Corinthian Church.
So in like manner, we too need to be willing to put to death in us anything that does not lead us to Christ. The pain of it can be joined to the sufferings of Christ for God’s glory and honor. It is something that we can offer to our God, as our Psalmist said, as a “sacrifice of praise.”