The gospel today from Mark 9 gives us quite a funny picture of heaven – a place where people walk around disabled. Jesus says: if you want to enter into life (heaven), cut off your hands and your feet, if these cause you to sin here on earth.  Imagine heaven as place where people are in crutches and bandages, limping around because of missing limbs.  Of course this is just an image but there is a deeper truth in these words.
In the history of Christianity, from the beginning until today in many countries, followers of Jesus, whether Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, or Pentecostals, traded their bodies rather severe their relationship with the Lord. The Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne were beheaded because of the hatred of the revolutionary leaders in France. They entered into life headless.  The Japanese and Korean Martyrs were burned, chopped, dragged by horse carriages, crucified or crushed by enormous weight but would not for a second entertain abandoning their faith. Martyrs in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, among other places, continue to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord. At times, the Lord will demand his words to be taken literally.
But for most of us today, the challenge is not physical but spiritual.  A battle between good and evil is waged before us each day. We are in endless pursuit of choices to demonstrate our faith. When we fall into sin, we not only bring ourselves to ruin but also drag our neighbors into it, as the Lord warns us in his teaching on scandal in today’s Gospel.
The Christian is called to heroically “cut off” whatever will cause his own or another’s downfall. Of course, this is spiritual severance, rather than physical. And at times, this can be even more painful and drastic.
Can we “cut off” our tongue so that it will not utter degrading words? Can we “cut off” our hands so that they cannot take what is not ours? Can we “cut off” our feet so that we need not visit places that lead us to vice? Can we “pluck out” our eyes so that it will not feast on web sites or movies that showcase indecency? Can we “chop off” our pride so that we will be able to understand others in their situation of suffering and pain?
Jesus exaggerates so that we will feel the weight of his message.  Let us not take these words lightly but quickly respond to them by seriously applying them to our lives today.
Lord grant that I may want to be “cut off” from my own body than separated from you.