There is a battle going on in the lives of each of us, a battle going on for the lives of each of us, a battle between good and evil. At the end of that battle, in the next life, we will either hear Jesus say, "You are mine," or hear Satan say, "You are mine." Through His Cross, Jesus has won the battle, but it is up to us now to accept His grace and live as those redeemed by Jesus. There are manifestations of grace and manifestations of evil all around us, but we can take the side of Jesus in the battle for our lives by overcoming sin and temptation.
How do we overcome sin and temptations? In the Gospel, Jesus said, "If your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off...if your foot...if your eye..."
Of course we do not cut off our hands or feet, or pluck out our eyes. Jesus was speaking metaphorically. In Palestine at that time, it was common to speak in this exaggerated way to make a point. But if something is leading us into temptation and sin, then we avoid that. We call this avoiding the occasions of sin. When Jesus says to cut off our hand or foot, or pluck out our eye if it causes us to sin, He is asking us to avoid whatever it is that leads us on to commit sin.
In the first reading, we find jealousy, in its destructive form of envy, raising its ugly head in Moses' assistant or successor, Joshua. Moses had to instruct Joshua to be tolerant. Jesus warned the apostles and us that just as a doctor might remove by surgery a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us or others to sin and which leads to spiritual death.
Perhaps for some people, alcohol is an occasion of sin because it leads on to committing sin. I think we could say the same about much of the trash that is on our TV or in other media because it presents various sins as glamorous, and it gradually breaks down our defenses, and then we think it is okay to sin. Once Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, "We have a Tabernacle to Jesus in the church, and we have a tabernacle to Satan in the home." If we decide not to have any TV or newspaper in our homes, that could be our way of plucking out the eye that would lead to sin. In today's Gospel, Jesus did not say anything about the tongue, but if He did, it would be something like this, "If your tongue causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life dumb than with speech and go to Hell." There are some cloistered convents that have rules that one sister may not talk to another unless there is a real need of it. These are the efforts to avoid occasions of sin and gossip.
Apart from avoiding occasions of sin, we can also strengthen ourselves against evil in many ways. We can pray to overcome evil. The greatest prayer is the Mass. Pope St. John Paul II said, "Every Eucharistic celebration is stronger than all the evil in the Universe. It means real concrete accomplishment of redemption and even deeper reconciliation of sinful man with God in prospect of a better world."
Our Lady has repeatedly told us in her apparitions that the Rosary is a great weapon against Satan. The chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome, Fr. Gabriele Amorth, said that once when he was expelling a demon, the demon said to him, "Every Hail Mary is another blow on my head. If Christians knew the power of the Rosary, my power would be finished." Again, Pope St. John Paul II always encouraged us to pray the Rosary again and again. Take up the Rosary if you have neglected it. Let Mary take you to Jesus.
It is very important that we are aware of the second theme, namely those things that get in the way of being Christ to others.
A distressed student came to a college chaplain with a desecrated crucifix. Some tormented person on campus had broken the arms and legs of Christ. The student asked, "Should I burn the corpus?" The priest replied, "No, put it on your wall. Let it remind you that you must be the arms and legs of Christ. If anyone needs a glass of water, you must give it. Jesus will be reaching that person through your hands. If anyone needs a visit, you must go. The Christ will be using your legs."
Our spiritual life must be rooted in God, sharing His life with Him. That way, we become co-operators in the saving work of Jesus. God did His work; we have to do ours. Do harm to no one. Become the arms and legs of Christ. The smallest good deed is better than the largest intention.
Let the Eucharistic celebration inspire us and open our eyes to see the good in others, and give praise and glory to God, the source of all goodness.