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It cost me an arm and a leg!

Mk 9,38-48

In the 16th century, the expression “Costar an eye of the face” appeared, when the Spanish and the Inca civilization were at war to conquer Peru. One of the most important soldiers in these confrontations was Diego de Almagro, who in a battle in September 1524 in the assault on the Cacique de las Piedras Fort, was wounded in one of his eyes by an arrow shot by an Indian, leaving him one-eyed for always.

Later, when he returned to Spain and met with King Carlos I, between the conversation he told him: "The business of defending the interests of the crown has cost me an arm and a leg." From then on, the phrase that has been on the lips of many for almost 500 years has spread. The discoverer of Chile gave so much importance to this fact that the phrase soon spread among soldiers to designate a dangerous task or something very complex.

Beyond what for us Latin Americans any reference to the subject of the conquest may imply, if we put aside any position of victim or perpetrator that arouses us and we see this historic episode with partiality, we will understand the meaning of this widely used expression but also we can help to better understand the gospel of this Sunday that challenges us: "and I, have I lost my eye to achieve something? Furthermore, would I be willing to do anything to enter the LIFE that is JESUS?"

This Sunday's gospel will tell us about those who, by entering into LIFE, following Christ, are even willing to remain blind... but don't worry, we will understand little by little.

In Mark 9, 38-58, John, one of the disciples, finally dares to speak clearly with the Master. The silence of shame that had led them to remain silent last week begins to be overcome, at least now this disciple, John, dares to tell Jesus what they did: "Teacher, we saw one who was casting out demons in your name and we forbid him, because he is not one of ours"...

what a feat! trophy worthy! No? "We forbid it"... But in reality they were not very sure, they were left with the doubt if they had acted correctly and they tell them, at least they now have the confidence to honestly tell them about the gestures they are carrying out in their name as disciples theirs, whether correct or less. This ability is precisely what is required of us if we want to be disciples of Jesus, the ability to confront our life and action in a sincere and personal dialogue with the Master so that we gradually assimilate ourselves to him, to his values, to his criteria, to his thoughts... as we have been meditating on the Gospel of Mark for several weeks.

And come on! As we say in Mexico, that Jesus now did respond categorically with a NO: "do not forbid it!". In Greek there are two types of not, one that is indicative, like a suggestion or indication, but there is another not that isprohibitivecategorically prohibitive(μή = me), this "me" is a no that indicates a law, a categorical ordinance, but not only forbids but gives the reason:Do not forbid him because he is doing good in my name.

In this episode, Jesus is reminding us of something fundamental: to recognize the strength and power of acting in his name. Acting on his behalf makes us capable of casting out demons, BUT only if we act on his behalf. The disciples complain that he does not belong to the group, but Jesus tells them: HE IS ONE OF OURS, because whoever speaks well of me and acts well in my name is not against us.

Behind these words there is a whole world... What is truly prohibiting the disciples is any type of sectarianism, that typical spiritual disease that is "you are one of mine, you are not", sometimes we feel superior, good and we even sing: "and if we are the best, so what!"... Jesus wants to open the disciple's mind and heart: "he who works in my name IS ONE OF OURS".

But Jesus wants above all that they learn to see the work and action of God in the world. This is indeed a challenge, to see God working through those who do good, especially when they do it in the name of Christ. Seeing the work of God acting in the world supposes the commitment to see reality with the heart and eyes of God. We normally see superficially and we put the accent on what scandalizes us the most, evil, or we see only what is not there, what is missing, or only sin, although this is certainly very real... but we do not see what does exist , the simple and humble work of God in the world through the gestures of any human being who drives out demons, who drives out evil in the world.

Being able to see the strength and power of God is also to see who allows His Word to work miracles in his person. For this reason, the Gospel of Mark uses the Greek wordδύναμις (diunamis) what does it meanforce power and sometimes it has been translated as a miracle but it is not the best translation, the text says thatno one can have the strength to cast out demons except in the name of Jesus.

And I am not referring to exorcisms, which is the extreme of evil that seizes that person who has not been able to expel demons from their life every day in small details, I am referring rather to those expulsions or liberations, to those energetic orders that have the strength of that famous one: "Get away from me Satan" that we face every day. Since we started the morning, when we get up in the name of the Lord and for his glory, leaving the rich little bed to start the prayer, to prepare a breakfast with love, to say "I'm sorry", to say good morning and start without rancor, when we go to confession because we recognize that "it is my fault, my fault and my great fault" and not because of the neighbor who lives with me... It is there that we see the strength and power of the name of Jesus in our lives.

This week I saw in the subway, a tourist girl who held the hand of her uncles because they were older, such tender hands, of a young woman and some old men, one on the right and the other on the left, she held them with so much love that I even took a picture of their hands... This week I also met a wonderful couple who passed through Rome and who, after 28 years of marriage, continue to work to defend their conjugal love, holding hands and placing the Lord as the center from your heart and your home and committing yourself to the faith education of your local community. It is the strength of the name of Jesus that gave me the power to support a fellow community member while he vented with me... that's why they almost hit you... well, that's a way of saying it, but he was overloaded and in the end he told me : 'Thank you for your patience'... yes, it is the strength and the power to drive out demons... And every week, every day, every moment we could live contemplating the strength of God who acts in the world through us and In us. These are the true miracles, those that are performed in daily life and are performed in the name of the Lord, in the name of Love.

And Jesus specifies it even more in that same gospel when he says: "whoever gives you a glass of water in my name does not go unrewarded." And this is another ofthe signs of God's action in the world, those who let God do miracles in themselves, why share a glass of water in the name of ChristIt is a miracle, It is one of those gestures that carry the power and strength of someone who expels from his life the demons of his own comfort, of living to accumulate and increase his private property, of someone who sees the need of the other and tries to cover it. Of those who share their own goods, spiritual and material, gifts and virtues.

The true miracle is sharing the gifts we have and that we receive, it is the supportive collaboration of those who share the fish and loaves they have, their belongings, their own abilities. The material and spiritual gifts, the most personal, mine. It is the force of the miracle of those who enter the Life of the Christian community and as a disciple of Christ expel in their own life, with the strength and power of the name of the Lord, their own demons, those of egocentrism, individualism, super I. Yeah! Those are the subtle demons but they are vile ticks that only in the name of Jesus can we drive out every day.

This is the challenge that Jesus presents us this Sunday in the Gospel of Mark:

  • believe in the power of the name of Jesus,

  • act with the power of the name of Jesus,

  • recognize and love the works of God on a daily basis, in simple gestures but that change the world in which we live.

But all this depends on a single decision: to follow the Master to "enter Life", in HIS LIFE, in his lifestyle that implies A RADICAL and highly personal DECISION in the style of Diego de Almago, decision and courage because Better to be lame, one-armed or one-eyed to conquer LIFE, than to go to Gehenna, where there is a worm that does not die and a fire that never goes out" How disgusting! But this reality is as cruel and disgusting as it is real. Jesus tells us he warns that entering Life, that is, following it because he is Life, supposes this radical decision that means leaving everything that causes scandal, that is the occasion of scandal.

It is the personal decision to leave every occasion for scandal if we want the name of Jesus to have STRENGTH AND POWER to expel demons, there is no other way.Skandalitzo σκανδαλίζω It is a Greek verb that means to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, on which another can stumble and fall; being a stumbling block, today it is even a way of robbing the roads... Jesus refers to the scandal of the little ones, of children. And it does not specify or specify something concrete because it refers to any event that may cause a stumbling block in faith, that is, that they do not believe or act in his Holy Name with power.

That is why Jesus is clear: if your hand, if your foot, if your eye, are the cause of scandal, of stumbling for you, for your companion on the way, for the Christian community CUT IT OFF... uff! neither more nor less... obviously we are not talking about true physical amputations, the gospel uses hyperbole, that is, an example taken to the extreme to make us understand that his call means being willing to CUT OFF EVERYTHING THAT IS A STONE OF STUMBLING IF WE WANT THE LORD'S WORK TO BE CONCRETE AND INCANITE TODAY IN MY WORLD, IF WE WANT HIS NAME TO HAVE THE FORCE OF ACTION IN US AND THROUGH US.

But, to what extent are we convinced and determined to cut with everything that scandalizes? And not because of puritans, moralists or perfectionists, but because it takes our Life! Because whoever is not capable of cutting with everything that is a stone of scandal and that is the work of the devil, whoever does not act accordingly does not enter into the Life that is Jesus, but will enter and live in Gehenna.

Gehenna is a terrifying reality that the Jews knew about because atrocities had been committed there before Christ. It is a valley that is to the south-east of Jerusalem and whose name means "the Valley of the children of lamentation" because of the cries of the living children who were thrown there and burned alive by the pagans as a sacrifice to the god Moloch. pagan god who allowed human sacrifice until the Jewish king Josiah was able to stop and forbid it. The Jews remembered him with horror.

Apollo and Daphne. The laurel wreath.

Bernini 1652. Borghese Gallery. Rome.

This warning from Jesus is so serious that Saint Paul himself understood it in such a way that he invites us to enter into this great challenge: "Athletes deprive themselves of everything for a withering laurel wreath! We, on the other hand, a that does not wither" (1 Co 9, 25).

And we come to the heart of the matter, to one of the most fundamental questions of this gospel and therefore OF LIFE and around which the other questions revolve:

Why am I risking my life? Why or for whom am I willing to give my life piece by piece on a daily basis?

For what laurel crown am I giving my life? for one that withers, that is corruptible? Or for one that does not wither and is incorruptible?

Ignoring, evading or simplifying this question is putting the success of my life at risk or going straight down the path of mediocrity to the failure of my own existence, which would be to stay in the logic of simple biological beings: being born, growing, reproducing and dying. .

It would be deciding to enter Gehenna, the valley of wailing and screaming where there is a worm that does not die and swallows the best of ourselves.

Could it be that we still continue to live as mere creatures who have not realized the great call by which each one of us personally was called into existence?

Could it be that we continue to believe that we were born by chance, unexpectedly, because two cells joined with or without will, with or without love?

Could it be that we live in that practical atheism that denies that if we exist it is for a magnificent project and that I will only be able to discover it and carry it out if face to face, face to face with my Creator, I discover it look by look?

But we are children of God! (Ps 8).... If we have been created in his image (Gn 1,26), if Christ has made us his ambassadors, or better, his living incarnation!

The look of the Lord Jesus on each one of us helps us to get the best out of ourselves, to find the project for which we were created, to finish the work of art that he himself began when we were begotten in the womb, but everything I hope that we will be able to hold the gaze of the master who tears us from our Gehenna and envelops us in his gaze of love that tears us from our withering crowns, that we are not like the rich young man who allowed himself to be looked at but did not allow himself to be loved. but like Pedro who, feeling the gaze of the teacher, went out to cry bitterly in the House of Caifás, but under that gaze he allowed himself to be restored.

Prayer of supplication...

Lord Jesus, let me look through your gaze so that I can see and feel the strength of your action in me!

Let me stop running for the vain crowns that wither for which I strive without thinking!

May I decide to enter the path of your life, cutting off everything that prevents me from loving and letting myself be loved in my community!

In front of your eyes, may I discover the fundamental project for which I was created and may I carry out that work to be crowned with your crown of laurels that does not wither! To enter life where there is no worm that does not die nor fire of lamentation and suffering for not having hit the nail on the head of life.

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