“But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.”

Mark 9:42 

Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Mark 9:38-43, 47-48 

We can have good habits – like good manners – but we can also have bad habits – like lying – to avoid taking responsibility. Sometimes something well-intentioned can become a bad habit too.

Compulsive behaviour is different. Drugs, pornography, violence, corruption, looting, gambling are all obvious examples of compulsive behaviours which are destructive. There are other modern manifestations of compulsive behaviour too: the internet or binge shopping sprees. These behaviours can be linked to deeper problems, deeper wounds – like personal history, destructive desires, depression or loneliness. Sometimes some people feel so desperate when faced with their own compulsions that they want to chop off a leg or an arm or gouge out an eye. They are suicidal. But, for many, destructive behaviours like gambling or corruption are a way of life. 

Jesus speaks harshly of those for whom destructive behaviours are a way of life: “Anyone who is an obstacle to these little ones… would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone around their neck.”

Jesus is trying to encourage his listeners – and us – to examine our lives and face up to the destructive behaviours we manifest. These behaviours affect us and others negatively. They choke life. We can only do this when we develop an awareness of ourselves and how we act and live. This means that we regularly check in with ourselves, honestly, with God’s help, and learn to know ourselves as we are and not as we would like to be. When we do this, we have the chance to choose life over death. 

St Ignatius Loyola offers us a “tool” to do this. It is called the Daily Examen. He invites us to use this simple tool every day to check in with ourselves and, through doing so, grow in love and let go of anything destructive.

You can find a guided Examen HERE. Take time in the next few days to try the Examen. Note down what arises when doing this. 

After a little while, you will start to notice which behaviours are life-giving to you and others. You will also notice which behaviours throttle you and prevent you from loving as God invites you to. 

Lord God,

Give me the grace to see myself as I really am. Help me, with your love, to see and take responsibility for my destructive behaviours. I want to grow in love and want to let go of anything that prevents me from loving as fully as you love.


Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church.

director@jesuitinstitute.org.za @rpollittsj
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