Time to Take Aggressive Action – NOW!

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) –  Numbers 11:25-29; Psalms 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48. This series usually appears each Wednesday.


Photography © by Andy Coan

Radio talk show hosts make a living on it.  Day after day, they bring before our eyes stupid, unjust and wasteful situations in order to provoke outrage.  We love to listen and get ourselves all worked up.  Our indignation keeps us tuned in, which makes their advertisers happy.

It’s easy to focus on the outrageous things that some government official, or some other nation or some dumb yahoo from the next town is doing.  It’s easy to clamor that this intolerable situation must come to an end now.  For to say this requires little or nothing from us – our demand is that others do something about it, that others mobilize and take action, that others be set straight.

When it comes to confronting our own sinfulness and foolishness, we tend to lose the sense of urgency.  We procrastinate, make excuses, and change the subject.  That’s one of the very points that the Lord makes in this Sunday’s gospel.  “If your hand is your difficulty, cut it off!  Better for you to enter life maimed than to keep both hands and enter Gehenna.”

The Lord is not encouraging self-mutilation here.  He is rather calling for aggressive action; even action that hurts and costs us something precious.  Of course, our hands, feet, and eyes are just bodily organs.  Of themselves, they can’t cause us to sin and damage our relationship with God.  But some places that our feet take us, some things we do with our hands, some things we focus our eyes upon, these are the things that are our problem.  Going to a particular club may not be in itself sinful, but for a particular person, it may be a near occasion of sin.  Every person is a child of God, and nobody is “all bad,” but hanging around with certain children of God may present an occasion of sin to us.

We tend to try to manage it.  “I’ll keep my cable subscription, but just not watch that channel.”  “I’ll keep surfing the web, but just won’t visit that site.”  “I’ll go the club, but stop after two drinks.”

If it works, great.  But when it doesn’t, many of us go on fooling ourselves that it will – the next time.  We keep trying half-measures, avoiding the necessary treatment because it will sting too much, cost too much.

Jesus says to wake up, get real, and take aggressive action.  If the internet is your problem, shut it down.  If TV is your problem, turn it off.  Better you go through life unplugged and offline than spend eternity in Satan’s chat room.

However, to avoid taking aggressive action against our own personal compromises with the devil, we frequently change the subject.  “That miracle can’t be authentic – after all, that faith-healer’s theology is off-base.”  “Who do those Muslims think they are railing against abortion when they tolerate suicide bombers?”  “How dare those liberals uphold Papal social teaching when they disregard the Pope’s liturgical regulations?”  “Those arch-conservatives have no right to talk about the authority of the Council of Trent when they put down Vatican II.”God is not political.  He will welcome virtuous action by anyone, regardless of how imperfect their doctrine, how flawed their character and who they hang around with.  “Anyone who is not against me is for me.”

Persistently, he brings us back to the real issue, the issue we want to avoid.  He bids us to forget about others’ issues and attend to our own – our own divided hearts, our own hidden hypocrisy, our own little compromises with the devil.

Fortitude, one of the four Cardinal Virtues, is not just about enduring evil and hardship for the sake of doing good.  It is also about taking aggressive action against evil.  If it is uncomfortable, too bad.  If it hurts, so be it.  If we see evil in our lives, we mustn’t tolerate it, make excuses for it, and procrastinate.  We must pounce on it.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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