On the internet there are a lot of jokes, tweets and memes that touch on the topic of cutting toxic people off. These social media commentaries are all about cutting bad friends, ex-boyfriends, etc., out of your life without ever looking back. So then, this begs the question: Is today’s reading giving us permission to cut people out of our lives? Is he giving us the magical solution and telling us how to say, “bye, Felicia” to mean people? Is this the bible-given answer on how to do this?
I thought so at first. Then as I read closer I realized…hmm…strange…today’s Gospel doesn’t seem to mention personal vendettas against people. Nor does it talk about banishing evil people from your presence. Also, it’s definitely not about cutting your coworker out of your life because they stole your parking spot three weeks ago. In fact, the Gospel reading isn’t about others at all. It’s about cutting our own evil out of our lives.
Jesus begins by saying that anyone who does good will be rewarded, most likely with the best gift of all. The gift of everlasting life…entering those pearly gates…joining Jesus and the saints in heaven…meeting our Heavenly Father. But Jesus quickly moves on to say that anyone who causes others to sin should be weighted with rocks and thrown into the ocean to die. In fact, he literally says that if we lead others to sin, we may “go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.” Yes, that’s right. Jesus just told sin-spreaders to go to hell.
Now, as someone who has only lived for 24 years, I may not know much, but I do know that going to hell is the complete opposite of my entire life’s goal. Now that I know this reading is not about cutting others out of my life, but my own personal bad habits, I feel a little scared. As most people, I don’t deeply reflect on how my bad habits affect others. I mean I know if I tell my brother to skip Mass, I am the cause of his sin, but I never considered the effect of my own decision not to go.
For example, I know that if I tell my brother to skip Mass and stay at home to binge watch a show, I am the cause of his sin. What I do not consider is if it was my own choice to skip Mass, and he did too, although I did not ask him to, that I would be the cause of his sin. Although not verbal or physically causing others to sin, the example of our lives may.
Thinking harder, I wonder how many times I started a conversation with the intention of picking a fight, or how many times I caused others to gossip or curse just because I was. All these times, I was doing exactly what Jesus warned me of.
So the next time you’re about to tell your friend some juicy gossip, remind yourself that you would rather not be the kind of person who Jesus tells to go to hell. Instead, cut yourself off mid-sentence and be an example of Christ. Be the person who glorifies God and receives the gift of everlasting life.
Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.