9.30.18. Sun. wk 26 – O.T. – B
Numbers 11: 25 – 29
St. James 5: 1 – 6
Gospel – Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47 – 48
Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Missing The Point
In the first reading this morning, Joshua protested to Moses that Eldad and Medad were not present when the Spirit of God came upon the elders. They were not part of the group that had gathered around the meeting tent. And Joshua tells Moses that he should make them stop prophesying. What does Moses tell Joshua? He tells him: ‘Hey, you’re missing the point here, my friend’. “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets”. (Num.11:29)
Then John, in the Gospel, complained to †Jesus that someone not of their group was using the power of †Jesus’ name to expel demons. And John wanted †Jesus to stop them immediately. †Jesus tells John: ‘You’re missing the point, my friend’. “Whoever is not against us is for us”. (Mark 9:40)
John and the other apostles considered themselves ‘the popular kids’ because of all the ‘†Jesus followers’ they were chosen as the Twelve special ones. They were the popular kids and they did not want anyone else trying to take that away from them – nor did they want to add anyone else to their group. But †Jesus used the opportunity as a ‘teaching moment’. †Jesus was teaching them to reach out to those they thought were excluded from their company. Reach out to those who are not part of your group.
In both of these instances – people were judging harshly – someone who was trying to do God’s Will. In the Old Testament, the man was trying to prophesy. In the New Testament – he was casting out demons in the Lord’s name. Both were trying to do God’s Will – but they did not fit Joshua’s or John’s expectations. If we are to take a prophetic posture in the world – as followers of †Jesus – we must stop judging others. We must be welcoming. Our mission is to proclaim the Good News of God’s love and mercy – and no one is outside the reach of God’s love and mercy. No one! We are to welcome all people – saints and sinners alike.
We are living in the midst of a destructive culture. People are condemning those who are not of their group. We see this in politics, played out on television all week long. We see it in the Church, as well – with Bishops taking their corners in the boxing ring and criticizing other Bishops who do not follow ‘their idea’ of what the Church should do. This is not how Christian prophets and disciples are to behave. Every person who is Baptized, is Baptized in the image of Christ: “priest, prophet and King”; all our prophets are not like John the Baptist – shouting out in the desert. But a Christian prophet is one who brings the ‘Words of †Jesus’ to a broken world. Words of love, mercy, inclusion and healing – not words of anger, vitriol, and division. That is not the Christian prophet.
Father Walter Hilton was a fourteenth century Augustinian Canon. He described what was necessary to be a Christian Prophet. (Scale of Perfection; Dom Gerard Sitwell, trans.; Newman Press, Westminster, MD; 1953) It was to possess two virtues – Humility and Charity. To be humble is to live with the attitude: “I am nothing, I have nothing”. It’s not the humility I feel when I consider my sin or weaknesses – it’s not that kind of humility. But rather, he writes: “It is the humility the soul feels through grace in the contemplation of the Infinite Being and the great goodness of †Jesus.” It is the awareness of God’s greatness and my lowliness. That’s true humility. Who am I to judge another who is created in the image and likeness of God – who is loved by God? Who am I to judge that person? This is authentic humility.
And then – Walter Hilton writes about charity. To be charitable is to believe: “I desire only one thing” – and that one thing is †Jesus. I do not desire to get my way – I do not desire my candidate – I do not desire the power I need, the position I deserve, or the possessions I want. I don’t desire any of those things.
In the Gospel, †Jesus warns us about the danger of desiring anything more than my relationship with God. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes be thrown into Gehenna”. (Mark 9:45-48)
The Letter of James echoes this teaching of †Jesus. Those who practice injustice – no matter how wealthy or elite will answer for their sins – their fatted heart will be held accountable. It is very clear – if we are blessed with wealth, with possessions, positions, or authority – we are called to live in gratitude to God for those things. There isn’t anything bad about any of them – but we should live in gratitude that the Lord has blessed us with those things. These gifts are not meant as a way to promote myself – or to condemn others – to point fingers at others. We have to remember: ‘Without God – I am nothing – I have nothing and I only desire the one thing – †Jesus’. The true prophet and disciple of †Jesus sees the truth in the midst of all the lies in the world. John, the disciple – eventually learned that truth, because we read in the first Letter of John: “Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed – we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”. (1 Jn.3:2) John learned his lesson. He wasn’t to criticize those not of their company – but to recognize that we are all God’s children – now. We must stop judging and condemning others because they look – think – live – or believe differently than we do. God – the Holy Spirit lives in every living being and to deny this – to deny the presence of the Holy Spirit in anyone – is a sin against the Holy Spirit.
In the musical – ‘Children of Eden’ – there is a scene where Noah and his family have boarded the Ark. The rains have started and they are adrift in this flood. Noah’s son, Japheth, has defied his father. He had fallen in love with someone that was not a descendant of Abel – but someone who was a descendant of Cain and he sneaks his true love, Yonah, aboard the Ark. But – here’s the problem – Yonah bears the mark of Cain and as an outsider, Noah does not think she is a suitable spouse for his son. So Noah threatens to throw her adrift – open the door – put her on a plank and send her off adrift. Japheth, the son, says they will have to set him adrift – as well – because this is the love of his life. After deep prayer and reflection – Noah decides to let her stay and he blesses the marriage. The other family members were furious at this and they went to Noah and wanted an explanation. They are just angry. Who is this woman – this outsider? And Noah reminds his family how poorly they have treated one another – all cooped up in this Ark – with all the smelly animals. They have been at each other’s throats ever since the voyage began. Noah – then turns to Yonah, his daughter-in-law and says: “Ever since the flood began – the blood of Cain has risen in all of us – but never in you. Forgive me, my daughter”.
Before we want to throw someone over the side – let us examine prayerfully – our humility – and our charity – our sin and our imperfection. Who are the Eldad’s and the Medad’s among us? Who are the outsiders that we judge and condemn? They also are the ones that †Jesus died for.
As prophets and disciples – we must teach and live the Words of the Gospel: To affirm and to build up the work God has begun in others. Otherwise – we are missing the point!
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.