February 24, 2011 - Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus suggests a kind of surgery that is repulsive to us, and not us alone. The words of Jesus today, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” are probably those which have less often been followed literally than any other. The historical examples of people maiming themselves in hopes of greater holiness are few and not admired. Our eyes do not cause us to sin. Our hands do not cause us to sin. It seems cruel that we should attack a part of our bodies when the cause of the sin lies elsewhere.

If the examples that Jesus gives here are nauseous, the principle is absolutely solid. We should look at our lives and find the causes of sin. We are naïve if we think that we can leave the causes of sin lying around and avoid sin nevertheless. Jesus is saying that even if the cause of sin is as beloved to us as our own right hand, we should cut it off, even if the removal would be as painful as plucking out an eye, we should not hesitate.

If a person is causing you to sin, cut them off. Better to enter heaven alone than to go to hell with friends. If your television is causing you to sin, pluck it out of your home. Better to enter heaven without knowing who won American Idol than to enter hell having watched every show. If the internet or a kind of website is causing you to sin, sever the connection. Better to enter heaven crippled in this digital world than to enter hell well-informed.

Surely the removal of these or many other causes of sin would be hard, but not as painful as plucking out your eye. To live without television or internet in this modern age would be a serious disability, but not as bad as having a foot cut off. In other words, even if we are severe with ourselves, we will never exceed the examples that Jesus gave. If we need any encouragement in all this plucking and cutting off, our first reading from Sirach provides the words we need: “Delay not your conversion to the LORD, put it not off from day to day.”