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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

What Shocks Doesn’t Scandalize

Thursday June 9, 2022

by Fr. David M. Knight

Reflection on Mark 9:41-50

Jesus likes children because they are still discovering the world; they haven’t got fixed ideas yet that rule out anything new. They are open to truth.

This also makes them vulnerable to error. If they see bad behavior and values accepted, they may accept what they see as normal. As adults we need to be aware that children are never just observing us; they are learning from us. And more from our actions than from our words. Jesus warns us not to “scandalize” them.

To “scandalize” does not mean to shock. People seldom imitate what shocks them. To scandalize is to cause others to lower their ideals. This usually happens when we do something not blatantly bad, but just a little less than what Jesus teaches. Usually it is some little thing that at first appears contrary to what Jesus has said, but which, on second thought, seems reasonable. Or at least not worth bothering about. We lower each other’s ideas one notch at a time. We scandalize by inches.

When it comes to the radical teaching of Jesus, scandal becomes the rule rather than the exception. The “doctrine of the cross,” calling us to “love back” even at the cost of our lives, is not reasonable; it goes beyond reason. God said, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Peter himself protested against it (Mark 8:32). Jesus’ own disciples couldn’t understand it (Mark 9:32).

But Jesus doesn’t back down. As has become clear, we are not in “Christianity 101” anymore. Jesus is not feeding us “baby food.” He is teaching us now what we need to know to accept him as the Messiah he really is. He is giving us the whole Good News, and he knows it sounds like bad news. So he says, “If anything is holding you back, get rid of it. If your hand or foot is an obstacle to what I say, cut it off! If your eye is, pluck it out!” This is nothing new: he has already said, “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8:35).

It is simple arithmetic again: better to live lame than die whole. Jesus is counting on his disciples to be the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth” (Mark 4:21; Matthew 5:13-16). But if salt loses its taste, “It is no longer good for anything.” He ends, “Keep salt in yourselves, and you will have peace.”

Initiative: Give God’s life: Check your roots. What are the deepest principles you live by?

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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