|26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
So as to be more available to the graces of these readings, imagine
Jesus and John watching a video where in someone is seen driving out demons
in the name of Jesus. John points to the screen and reminds Jesus that
this guy is not one of “them,” but one of “those.” John has told Jesus before
about this fellow, but now he brings proof that this “outsider” shouldn’t
be doing things in the name of Jesus, because he is not officially appointed.
Jesus turns off the machine and turns to his friend with a smile and
words of inclusion.
Who belongs to God and who does not is an ancient and yet quite timely question.
“Us” and “Them” is a basic human distinction. We who are baptized in Christ
are in-spirited to embrace all God’s family and all God’s creation.
We are all to be a blessing and bless all with all we have been given. Our
hands, feet and eyes and all our totality are gifts by which we are to reveal
the love of God.
We can pray these days to reembrace our being blest and sent
or missioned to do all things in Jesus’ name. This is easier to say
and pray, but to be freed from the gravitational pull of our ego’s need to
have our own names celebrated, is not that easy. We can pray also for
the grace to receive our identity from God and not from defining ourselves
by who we are not. Who belongs to God is not our decision. We
can pray to try to live more authentically who we are in God’s presence.
Moses has been listening to the complaints of the weary and hungry Israelites
as they wander in the desert. He in turn complains to God that he has
such a heavy burden to carry this people all by himself. He has a very
good argument and so God tells Moses to gather seventy elders in the Tent
of Meeting in order to be given a share in the “spirit” of governing.
What we hear in today’s First Reading is God’s coming down and
blessing the elders gathered together in the Tent which is located outside
the camp. For some unexplained reason, two elders remained in camp.
They had made the starting lineup, but failed to show for the blessing. Never
the less, these two no-shows, begin to prophesy in the camp and are reported
to Moses. Moses responds with a great wish that all the people would
be in-spirited by God.
Mark presents a similar conversation between John and Jesus. John reports
to Jesus as Joshua had reported to Moses, that somebody, other than the disciples,
has been doing some healing in the name of Jesus. The “power” seems
to have been stolen from the disciples, and Jesus’ answer affirms a Markan
theme. The Apostles’ seeing Jesus calm the storm profess that even
the very things of the natural world obey him. All power to save, heal,
and bring order reside in and flow through, Jesus. If there is any
work of bringing the human family closer to the all-powerful creator and
healing within member of the human family, then it is Jesus’ doing the work
no matter who are the instruments.
Jesus then follows that up with a striking series of statements. “Little
ones” as well as our hands, feet and eyes all are to be used as blessings
through which that same power of Jesus is to flow. If anyone hinders
that revelation by misusing any one of these, it would be better had they
never been created or shared. Everything is meant to lead to the reception
and displaying of God’s particular love for this world. Those who abuse
the “revelationality” of a child, a woman or man, a river or trees or one’s
own body and spirit are deliberately putting themselves outside the camp
and outside God’s graceful reach.
There is something tragically sad, yet universally true; religion seems to
cause so much separation, prejudice, and violence. Modern divisions between
Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are not new realities. Mohammed in
the seventh century presented to the world a new and improved call from God
which was and is meant to replace both the first relationship between God
and the world through the Jewish faith, and Christianity which Mohammed perceived
as having failed. Before that and ever since, the questions and quests
continue between and among peoples of faith and conviction about who has
It is too easy to say that it does not make any difference which religion
or sect one embraces. It is likewise too easy to say that the one we
have is so right that we do not have to listen to or benefit from any other
faith tradition. The more important thing is to live the faith we have
been given in such a private and public manner that the One God is revealed.
As Christians, we believe that Christ is and so all revelations of God’s
love are through him, with him, and in him. His work is to make us
all one in Him which is taking a very long time. We do well to extend
our hands in offering and receiving to the world’s traditions rather than
pointing fingers. Who are in the camp and who are not?
“This is how we know what love is- Christ
gave up his life for us; and we too must give up our lives for our brothers.”
1John 3: 16