John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation
One of the guiding principles of Ignatian spirituality is freedom. In his classic manual for prayer, the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius Loyola asks us to free ourselves of “disordered attachments,” that is, anything that could keep us from responding to God’s will in our lives.
Pope Francis is probably one of the best examples of that kind of Ignatian freedom. He is a free man, as many of us can see. After his election as pope, he did not need to live in the grand Apostolic Palace, but preferred to move into a more modest hostel. He did away with the traditional red shoes of the pope. He feels free to spontaneously embrace people during his visits overseas, as he has done here in the United States. He is free.
Today’s Gospel reminds us to remove anything that could prevent us from responding to God’s word. Jesus speaks with typical hyperbole, saying “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”
He’s not saying we should go around eyeless, but rather free.
As we bid farewell to the Pope today, let us pray for the courage to be freely who God dreams us to be.
—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.
What does freedom mean? It is certainly not doing whatever you want, allowing yourself to be dominated by the passions, to pass from one experience to another without discernment, to follow the fashions of the day; freedom does not mean, so to speak, throwing everything that you don’t like out the window… Let us not be afraid of life commitments, commitments that take up and concern our entire life! In this way our life will be fruitful! So this is freedom: to have the courage to make decisions with generosity…. The more men and women are at the service of others, the greater their freedom.