Today, following the example of the most modern TV producer, we are given to see Jesus conjuring images of unstoppable fire and worms into a place we have to avoid by all means: into hell, «where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out» (Mk 9:48). It is a vivid description of the state a person may attain when his/her life has not carried him/her where he/she wanted to go. It could be compared to the moment when, while driving our car, we take the wrong road by thinking it is the right one, and we end up in an unknown place, not knowing where we are and where we did not certainly want to go. We have to avoid it, no matter how, even if we have to get rid of some apparently unalienable things: without hands (cf. Mk 9,43), without feet (cf. Mk 9,45), without eyes (cf. Mk 9,47). We have to have the strong desire to enter into the Kingdom of God even if we have to go without an essential part of ourselves.
It is possible that this Gospel may incite us to mull over something we may have, very dear to us, but that prevents us from seeing God, —or even worse— that pushes us away from God.
The same Jesus leads us to look for the sin responsible for all our failings (hands, feet and eyes). Jesus speaks about anyone that could cause one of these little ones who believe in Him to stumble and sin (cf. Mk 9:42). “To cause someone to sin” is to turn someone away from God. We, therefore, appraise in every person his nearness to Jesus, the faith he may have.
Jesus teaches us we do not have to belong to the Twelve or to be one of his most intimate disciples to be able to stay beside Him: «For whoever is not against us is for us» (Mk 9:40). We can understand that Jesus saves all. It is a lesson of today's Gospel: many are those who, because of their deeds, are closer to the Kingdom of God than we may think. As St. Therese of Lisieux admitted: «The Lord cannot reward me for my deeds (…) Thus, I hope He will reward me for His».