Should You Cut Off Your Hand If It Causes You To Sin?

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I would like to reflect on the pattern of coming together and separating: God bringing us together and also separating us when He brings us together. We hear in the first reading that the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. He gathered everybody that was together in the tent. He took the spirit, and He divided it amongst them. So, they all became alive with the Holy Spirit.

Today, as we celebrate Mass, we all come together in the Church. We are here together. In just a few moments, we will each receive the Holy Eucharist. We will receive Jesus into us and that same Holy Spirit will enflame us all. It happens predominately when we come together.

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives, so the most powerful time of experiencing this is when we come together each and every Sunday. To be here together, though, results in us being separate from something and someone.

So, think about whom you are not with today or what you are not with today. You have separated yourself from some things to come here. Whether that is family or friends or technology or whatever it may be, there has been some kind of separation for you to get here and to be here together with the Body of Christ.

It is important that we come together because it is when we are together that we receive the Holy Spirit. And, when we are together, we receive strength from one another, from the Christian community, to overcome whatever it is we may need to separate from. So, I think we understand the concept of coming together because we are all here together.

I want to reflect now on what we also need to separate from, and this moves us to the Gospel.

We hear Jesus proclaim this message about the reality and the gravity of sin. It would be better for someone if a great millstone was put around their neck and they were thrown into the sea than if they caused a little one who believes in Jesus to sin. So, it would be better for any of us for that to happen to us than to cause anyone else to sin.

We are seeing right now (through what the Church faces) the gravity and reality of sin, but it is true for each and every one of us. If there is some sin in our lives that we are not intentionally cutting off, or renouncing, or turning from, or separating ourselves from, it begins to penetrate into the very depths of us.

I think that cancer is a very good analogy. So, probably some of you, right now listening to this, have had cancer and have had maybe even cancer that was so aggressive that a part of your body had to be cut off. You had to separate yourself from it so as to get rid of the cancer. Sin operates in a very similar way.

When sin begins to take root and take hold, those people or those things or whatever it may be that allowed sin in our life needs to be severed. We need to separate ourselves from it. And so, I do not want anyone to show up next week with an amputated arm or an amputated leg.

You know this is one of those Gospels that we are supposed to take seriously, but it is not literal. He wants us to cut off anything in our life that causes us to sin. And so, I want you to think about that for yourself. Is there anyone in your life right now that is causing you to sin?

We are all together right now and as I look out at you nobody is sinning right now. We are all okay together as the Body of Christ. So, when we go back out there, I think that we have the temptation and the tendency to sin.

Is there anyone that is causing you to sin or any group of people that is causing you to sin? Or anyone who is not here right now that is causing you to sin? You might have to sever yourself from that person or that group or that situation. It might only be for a time, but it might also be forever.

Then I wonder if there is anything that is causing us to sin or a situation that is causing us to sin. Alcoholics know that when they are recovering from alcoholism, they cannot go hang out at a bar. That place and that situation are going to lead them back into their addiction. And so, there might be some situations that we need to cut off. There might be some things that we are using that we need to cut off.

You know, maybe that has to do with the Internet or maybe that has to do with any number of things. I think the important thing is that we have to be willing to be drastic and that we have to be willing to have it be so final that it would be like cutting off a foot or cutting off a hand.

You know that our life is going to be different. We cut ourselves off and we sever ourselves from sin or people or places or things that lead us into sin, so that we can be together in grace and a life of holiness as one Body in Christ. So maybe there are people right now that you need to separate from, but there are also probably people you need to connect with. People you need to become one body with. Maybe it is people in the Church, maybe it is good friends, maybe it is family.

Whatever that may be, try to focus on that now. The things that we need to separate ourselves from and the things we need to come together for. This will ultimately allow us to become the Body of Christ. So, if there is any serious sin in your life, do not be afraid to cut it off, so we can come together as one.

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.