Right on Target

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 29, 2021 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.

This Sunday’s gospel cannot be classified as a happy one. It focuses on the reality of personal sin and what we should do about it. In brief, we are told to take steps to avoid sinning or to refrain from doing anything that might cause others to sin. Examples are provided.

If your eye is involved in sinning, pluck it out. If your hand is part of your sinning, cut it off. That same with your foot. At the very least, this account feels like a gory part of the gospels. And it is. It may be a part of the message of Jesus we might be tempted to overlook. You likely have heard that Thomas Jefferson authored his own version of the gospels where he left out parts he didn’t like. Perhaps this was a section that ended up on the cutting floor.

But let’s take another look because I perceive something very important and worthwhile is being communicated to us in this gospel.


A few years back, noted psychologist, Karl Menninger, wrote a widely read book entitled, Whatever Happened to Sin? The decade of the 1960’s had been described by some as a time of free love, widespread drug abuse and unfettered sexual license. Menninger believed that we had lost our moral compass and that many had completely dismissed the notion of sinfulness and evil. In recent postings on social media, many seem that his judgment remains pertinent in our times.

One effect of losing a sense of evil is that an appreciation of virtue and goodness also diminishes. If everything we do, every act of our daily lives, is judged as morally neutral, nothing we do will seem very significant. No longer are we involved in the great challenges of life involving good and evil. Our lives end up being “just one thing after another.” No big deal.

But they are! So, today’s gospel can alert us to the fact that everything we do can make the world better. We are co-creators of God’s world, a world that will be ours forever and ever. We do our acts of goodness not just for us as individuals, but for our families, for our sisters and brothers everywhere. We can miss the target (one of the meanings of “sin” in the time of Jesus) or we can make it all better.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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