Mark’s Gospel 9:41-50 is about taking responsibility for one’s own actions. When we have done wrong, Jesus urges us to undergo radical change - using the strong images of cutting off a hand or a foot or pulling out an eye. That is what is demanded of one who is committed to making the grace-filled presence of God the center of his or her way of life.
I recall a group of Catholic youth in Fiji who belonged to a group that I helped to form and supported. They were a hard-case bunch who sometimes got into trouble. On New Year’s Day, following a heavy drinking session, beer not kava, they commandeered a taxi which they ended up crashing. I clearly remember the next morning someone telling me, “Your boys are in the cell. They hijacked a taxi yesterday.” I was able to arrange for their release from prison. Then, a few days later, with the help of a good friend who held an important post in the local court, I managed to arrange for them to meet the owner of the taxi company. Fortunately, the owner was happy to settle out of court, and this group ended up paying off the taxi over a period of time. Some of them became law-abiding family men. They took responsibility for their actions and changed their lives.
One of the reasons why I remember this incident is that the close friend of mine, who helped to arrange for the meeting between this bunch of hard-case youngsters and the owner of the taxi company, died recently in Fiji. I was sorry I could not be there when he died. Tomasi Tui was a big man who went on to hold high office in government as District Officer and Commissioner Eastern. Throughout his life he helped many other young people to take responsibility for their lives. His legacy lives on in the lives and the memories of those whom he helped or who came to know him as a loyal friend. No doubt there are other people whom we know who also helped others to radically change their lives for the better and enable them to become genuine people, in the same way that Jesus urges us to become the salt of the earth and instruments of peace among all people.
Columban Fr. Tom Rouse provided this reflection.