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JAMES 5:1-6

PSALM 49:14-20

MARK 9:41-50

Today's Gospel reading picks up from where we left in yesterday's Gospel passage. In yesterday's Gospel reading, John, one of the disciples of Jesus told him, " Teacher we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him because he was not following us."

In response to John's statement, Jesus said, “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us."

This is a very straightforward answer, easy to understand. It does not need any explanation but should be taken as it is and put into practice.

Do we like very straightforward and easy to understand statements that need no explanation? Yes, we do because we wouldn't want to scratch our heads to the point of losing our hair trying to decipher the meaning of a complex statement. We prefer it easy. If Jesus' initial response to John's reaction towards the man who used his name to cast out demons was simple and straightforward and easily understood, then have you been able to see that in today's Gospel reading Jesus gives a complex, difficult and tough response?

Jesus talks of a millstone being hung round your neck and you being thrown into the sea if you cause one of the little one believe in him to sin. Is this a simple language, easy to accept? Jesus goes head to talk of cutting off your hand and foot and plucking out your eye if they cause you to sin. Is this a simple language and easy to accept bearing in mind that these are body parts that we rely on in order to accomplish our daily activities?

Jesus used a style of speech known as hyperbole which is normally exaggerated in an unusual manner as a way of emphasizing, evoking strong feelings and creating strong impressions. Hyperbole is meant to make you think deeply and make a critical decision regarding a certain issue. In using hyperbole by telling his disciples to cut of their hands and feet and pluck out their eyes and to even have a great millstone hung around their necks and thrown into the sea if they cause the little ones to sin, Jesus creates a strong impression that it is very bad to prevent someone who is still new and struggling to express faith from doing so.

By using hyperbole Jesus is evoking strong feelings that should enable us see God in the acts of others and to ask ourselves whether our zeal for the Gospel or for anything else that is good, or whether our fear of those who are different from us places a stumbling block before the little ones?

Since hyperbole should not be taken at face value we may be tempted to cast it off. If we do so we won't get the meaning of it's function which is to magnify what is at stake. Hyperbole should not always be dismissed as mere hyperbole because if we do so we will miss the truth it points to and the truth is that we could be the stumbling cause of someone tripping and stumbling in their faith to the point of that person questioning whether or not they are truly a critical and viable member of God's kingdom. What do you think is at stake in our faith, in our society, in our relationships, just anywhere such that we need the use of hyperbole to be bring out the truth and make us change our attitude?


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