THEME: GOD’S SPIRIT IN THE WORLD. Num 11:25-29; Ps 18; Jam 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
To be passionate disciples of Jesus, we need to be passionate in putting the Gospel into practice, to live in peace with others and to be the salt of the earth. God’s Spirit has been given to all people rich and poor alike at our Baptism and at our Confirmation. When we look at the world, full of hypocrisy, we tend to look down on people and judge them. Riches, poverty, the weak and the powerful all seem to get highlighted in the readings of today with a certain emphasis on tolerance.
In the first reading from Numbers 1:25-29, the spirit came on the seventy elders and prophesied. The young man was envious because Eldad and Medad were prophesying and wanted them to be stopped. It is through envy and jealousy that we become bitter and resentful of others’ gifts. We are not at peace with others and we tend to lose our saltiness. As human beings, we tend to want to stop people from prophesying in the name of Jesus, because they are outside our camp; they are not one of us; they do not belong, therefore they do not have the authority or the power to preach and perform miracles.
In the second Reading of James, the rich are strongly warned against their wealth being corroded and their clothes being eaten up by moths. They have no sympathy on their part for the downtrodden and unfortunate of this world. What James is trying to teach us here is that having wealth is not a sin. However, when we make our wealth our god, then it becomes sinful and damages our relationship with God and with others. We should therefore, not be attached to material goods as this cannot afford us a place in the Reign of God.
In the Gospel of Mark, we hear an echo of the First Reading, where the disciples tried to stop a man performing miracles and casting out demons in the name of Jesus. They tried to stop him because he ‘was not one of us’. Jesus said, “Whoever is not against us is for us”. How often do we try to stop people preaching in the name of Jesus, because they are of a different religion, or “We can’t listen to this, because it is not the teachings of the Catholic Church?” God gives His Spirit generously to all people and the same Holy Spirit can work powerfully in anyone if we open our hearts and are available to be His instruments.
Anyone who stops people of exercising their faith in the way the Sprit leads them is denying that person a cup of water because they belong to Christ. Because of people’s narrow-mindedness, they exclude others of belonging. People’s faith is being damaged because they are being stopped from believing in Christ. Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel, that we should be tolerant of others. We should accept others for who they are even though they may be different from us in culture, race or religion. They have a right to evangelize and to be a witness for God. No one should be made to feel excluded in building the Reign of God. Evangelization plays a big part in our lives from the greatest to the least. If we are open to tolerance, to accepting others, and loving them the way Christ loves them, we will be open to others evangelizing us and allowing us to be changed from the inside out. On the other hand, if we try to stop people from exercising their faith in Christ through prophesying, then we are like an obstacle in their path. Jesus has strong words in this regard: “But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck”. Jesus has no time for the proud and the mighty, but for those who show humility and are poor in spirit. We are all children of God no matter how different we are. It is the same Holy Spirit who works in all and through all. Today’s Gospel amplifies to those with influence that if they should lead others astray, it could damage them psychologically. If we are stumbling blocks to others, giving people false hope, teaching untruths and indoctrinating others so that they stumble and fall into sin, then we have to clear away the stumbling blocks from our own pathways, repent of our sins, or bear the consequences.
In the Gospel today, Christ uses parts of the body as metaphors to illustrate a point. As Christ says, “If your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off…” If anything causes us to sin, we should separate ourselves from it and avoid temptation to sin by all means. While Jesus uses hyperbole for dismemberment of the body, He is illustrating through this that no matter how sacrificial our attempt to avoid sin, it will be worth it, rather than to sin and burn in hell.
As the Psalmist reminds us today, “let us be blameless and clean from grave sin”.
So what is the call of Christ for each of us here? It is to be salt of the earth, to live in peace and harmony with our neighbour and to renounce evil and sin, fight against injustice and be cosmic revolutionaries of love, thus building up the Reign of God through passionate and radical discipleship.
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
- Think about the sins you most often struggle with.
- Are you willing to do whatever it takes to avoid those sins?
- What steps do you need to take to run away from sin and pursue Christ?
Sr Columbia Fernandez O.P