The Inside Story – John Foley, SJ

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time


We have an interior and an exterior, you and I. This seems to be the key to Sunday’s Gospel.

We can find clues to our “interior” in the calm we find at a quiet lake or at the sight of a budding tree or in the company of a much-loved friend. Stillness can emerge, a hushed sense of well-being. This deep interior is where feelings and thoughts can be themselves, can be just as happy or as sad as they feel like being.

Our “exterior” is what we often use to interact with everything and everybody else. It is our outside. It may let us come across to others as decisive or fun-loving or threatening or shy or easy to talk to, or who knows what else. It is how we make our way through the day in a busy world, or even get over that day (e.g., watching TV, drinking beer, sleeping, and so on).

The Spirit of God chooses to dwell in our interior depths. Not because there is something wrong with the outside, but because the deep interior is where we are made in God’s image. There we can be quietly open to others. It is a place that wants to give love and receive it from other people—and, if we consent, from God.

The exterior sometimes lives in storm, sometimes in sunlight. Unfortunately, it is able at times to out-shout the inside. I want food. I want revenge. I am grouchy. I got three hours of sleep. Gimmee rest. Gimmee pleasure. Gimmee triumph. I want everything. Give it to me!

Fine, but what if you got all these demands? What if you gained the whole world but lost your very self?

No mistake, you and I do get “caught up” in external things. In Luke 12:16-24 Jesus points out this tendency. He says, you have built still another barn to hold your riches! But this very night God will ask your very soul of you, and what will you take with you then? Your riches? No. The way you look? No. Your interior self is what will come with you when you die. God dwells in that inner self, in the quiet center of your being.

Furthermore, those who lead others away from their interior self are not well-received in the Gospel this Sunday. Jesus says about children,

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea. (Gospel)

Do you really want to ignore such a crucial part of yourself, now, while there is still time to find it? Why not let your inner self have a chance, as Jesus suggests.


Spend some time in quiet each day. Have the heart to give a cup of water to someone thirsty. Be alert for the Spirit within other persons and respect them for it, even if you do not like them.

And allow the Lord to reward you!

*image from the Internet

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