When the new translation of the missal was introduced in 2011, a friend of mine was very disappointed that the phrase in the Apostles creed “he descended to the dead’ was now translated “he descended into hell”.
I think there are many who feel uncomfortable about the mention of hell. In the past it was used to frighten people into doing the right thing. Yet here it is in the Gospel for today used by Jesus.
Jesus talks about cutting off the sinful hand or foot and tearing out the sinful eye and throwing them into hell. Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation.
As one writer pointed out, “We must ask what these organs of the body represent. What seat of energy is located in each one of them?”
We use our hands to welcome and greet, to serve and give, to heal and caress, to reconcile and unite. We use our hands to praise God in work and prayer. Yet our hands can be cold and withdrawn, closed, used to steal and hurt. These hands are already cut off from Christ.
Our feet carry us on mission. Our feet stand firm in storm and trial. Yet they can be used by us to run from responsibility, shifting with every passing wind, marching with menace and terror. They do not belong to Christ.
Our eyes are the window of the soul. They let in God’s light, and fill us with wonder. Our eyes are windows that shine out with God’s love which is in our heart with attentiveness, caring and love. But these same eyes can be smudged and darkened. They can be filled with lust and violence. Dark shifty eyes express hatred, prejudice and coldness.
Our hands, feet and eyes are made for Gods service. If we don’t use them in this way then they deserve to be put out with the rubbish.
The word Hell in the Gospel of Mark is translated from the greek γέεννα, Gehenna. The Greek word is formed from the Aramaic Ge-hinnam – the valley of Hinnom. This was the name of the valley to the south of Jerusalem where at one time children were offered in sacrifice to Moloch mentioned in the book of Jeremiah. Later it was made the dumping ground for the refuse of the city.
Father Sylvester O’Flynn writes, “The rubbish dump is never without a fire and the maggots and bacteria are ever busily decomposing all matter there. Preachers and artists down the ages have exaggerated the image of fire beyond all proportion and context. Here it means the rubbish dump of wasted life and talent. Belonging to Christ or to the rubbish dump? Where does my life, every part of it, stand?”