Do you believe that God loves you? Perhaps that’s an odd question to ask a group of people gather for Sunday Mass. But perhaps you have experienced this; it is so easy to experience the love of those closest to you. For example, I have no doubt that my parents love, I have no doubt that my siblings for the most part love me. I don’t even think about it day in and day out and you can begin to take it for granted. When is the last time you stopped for a moment and actually realized the love that God has for you?
Think about it, God gets nothing out of you and I being here. He doesn’t need us; He is perfect all on His own, yet He still choose to place each and every one of us in the world. Every time we walk into this church, we are reminded, when we see Jesus hanging on the cross, how much He loves us. Not only did He freely, choose to place us in this world, when our hope was lost because we messed it up, He came into this world and died for us.
My friends it is important for us sometimes to step back to realize the great length to which God loves us. Because you see God’s love has consequences for how we live our life. When we stop and recognize the great love God has in putting us here, the great love He has in redeeming us on the cross, it clearly shows us that He wants what is good for us. He wants us to flourish, not just in this life, but more importantly in the life to come. So, as we stop and recognize that love it becomes the lens through which we should hear today’s gospel. If you eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Of course, Jesus isn’t speaking literally, He is using the rhetorical device of hyperbole, He is speaking in exaggeration to make His point known. Why, because God loves us and wants what is best for us. He doesn’t want anything getting in the way of achieving what He has planned for us.
You see often times when you ask someone what it means to sin, they will say well you hurt God. No, “God is only offended by us, when we act against our own good.” Sin holds us back, sin keeps us from attaining what God has in store for us. So, if we can step back and realize the great lengths that God went to love us, we begin to see that these commandments, laws, and rules are there for a purpose, they are there so that we can reach that potential.
So, in today’s gospel when we hear Jesus tell us to pluck out our eye or cut off our arm, He is telling us do whatever it takes to avoid falling into sin. Don’t allow anything to get in the way from acting the way you should, from achieving that potential that I have given you. Friends, most of us are very good, when it comes time to go to confession to step back and look at our sins, but that is only the first step. Today’s gospel calls us to go further. It causes us to ask ourselves what are those things that cause me to sin and then to cut them out; to root them out of our lives. Why? Because as the psalmist reminds us the precepts of the Lord gladden the heart. These rules God has for us really do keep us at our fullest self.
We have all heard the famous phrase that the best defense is often a good offense. Today Jesus challenges each of us to go on the offensive. Not just to repent of our sins, but to do whatever we have to so that we don’t fall into sin. What is your eye, what is your hand, what is your foot? What are those things, that are leading you into sin? Those are the things that we need to cut off and cast aside.
If you have ever worked with someone recovering from addiction you discover they often only begin to get traction in their recovery when they move beyond not wanting to get into trouble and discover there is someone they don’t want to disappoint. When I was younger, I didn’t break the rules because I didn’t want to get in trouble, but as we get older, we realize it’s not so much about not wanting to get in trouble as it is letting certain people down. Maybe you have those people in your life that if you let them down, they don’t even have to say a word, all they have to do is give you that look and you immediately feel bad about it.
My friends, Jesus reminds us that there is nothing more important in this life than heaven. Nothing should get in the way of us achieving that place He has prepared for us and that means we need to make changes in our life. So, as we stop and hear Jesus in this exaggerated phrase, of plucking out your eye and cutting off your hands and feet, we are invited to step back and ask, what are my eyes, what are my hands, what are my feet, what are those things that lead me into sin and how do I root them out of my life. Afterall God has given us everything, He has given us the gift of His love. He wants what is best for us, the challenge for us then is to root out sin; to root out those things that are not good for us, those things that hold us back from the relationship He wants for us. What are those things in your life that lead you into sin?
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles 3.122