When Jesus tells us to cut off offending hands and feet and pluck out sinful eyes, he’s using the exaggeration that was characteristic of Jewish speech in his day. It isn’t meant to be taken literally. It is, however, an effective means of communication, as it sure wakes us up and grabs our attention!
Jesus’ point is that we’re to be absolutely ruthless in eradicating sin from our lives, because he knows our tendency to become too comfortable with them.
Sometimes we rationalize our behavior, saying things like, “Everybody does it” or “I’m not really hurting anyone!” or “I’m too set in my ways to change” or “God has bigger things to worry about” or “C’mon! This was the only fun I had all week!”
At other times, we blame our actions on others. We complain: “It’s my job that’s driving me to drink” or “My parents made me the way I am” or “I’m not cheating on my taxes- the government’s stealing my money” or the classic, “The devil made me do it!”
All such excuses are masks for laziness, a fear to change or accept responsibility, or a presumption of God’s mercy. And it’s precisely these attitudes Jesus challenges in today’s gospel. He doesn’t expect that we’ll completely change overnight, or that we’ll ever completely eloiminate sin from our lives. But he does expect us to struggle- a struggle demanded by love, and the fruit of which is holiness and peace.
“Christian holiness does not mean being sinless,” wrote Pope John Paul II, but rather it means struggling not to give in, and always getting up after every fall.”
Readings for today’s Mass: http://www.usccb.org/nab/022411.shtml