26th Sunday Ordinary Time B

The Spirit came on them also

During her rounds, a Catholic social worker in Corning, New York got acquainted with Orrin, who was on the relief rolls. Orrin, 82, lived alone in a shanty on the edge of this small upstate city. He was just about as poor as he could be, but attracted her by his quiet, cheerful dignity.

One day he told her a little about himself, and she began to understand why he was so serene.

“I belong to the Gospel Tabernacle,” he said. “I go to church on Wednesday night, and there isn’t a fuller church in town.” “When I get up mornings, I pray for an hour. I pray for everybody I’m going to meet each day. Then I read my bible for an hour. At night I read the bible again.”

Orrin’s remarks set the Catholic woman thinking. “I believe,” she said to herself, “that I belong to the true Church. But this sweet little man seems to be much closer to God than I am!”

God has indeed given us one true church as the authorized channel of salvation. But that does not prevent Him from working out “special arrangements” with those who are not registered members of the Church. That is why Jesus told his apostles not to forbid a man outside their own number to invoke the name of Christ against demons. “Anyone who is not against us,” He explained, “is with us.” Moses had taken the same stand when Joshua tried to stop the preaching of the two men who had not been officially called to membership in the committee of seventy elders. “Are you jealous for my sake?” Moses asked Joshua. “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!” How the Spirit dealt with the two unofficial preachers was His business; and it was clear He “had come to rest on them also.” (Numbers 11:25. Today’s first reading.) We have no right to pass judgment on God’s generosity towards any of His children.

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q547: Cut off what? Pluck out what? Can Jesus be serious about such radical actions as maiming or crippling your own body (Mark 9:38-48)?

You have to recognize that Jesus is using a figure of speech here, one very common in the Semitic world of his time. He is using exaggeration – hyperbole – to make a special point. Basically he is saying that you may need to take radical action right now to change your attitudes. If those attitudes are getting in the way of true discipleship, then they must go.

The key is to remember that Jesus came to save all humankind – not just Jewish folks; not just Catholics; not just martyrs. It isn’t just the Club that counts; it is fidelity to the Head of the Club that matters! Fidelity and attention to the teachings of the Head ought to lead the members of the Body to correct behavior. Moses (Nm 11:25-29) and Jesus (Mark’s gospel) are both pointing to the Giver of gifts, not the group who receives the gifts. There is no room for a mentality of exclusivism or isolationism. Fr. Leonard Feeney, SJ risked excommunication for preaching that way in the last century. The world’s bishops at Ecumenical Council Vatican II taught clearly that the one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church; but they also taught that all humanity has immunity from coercion by the holders of an “exclusive” mentality (Dignitatus Humane, #1; 1965).

Neither is there room for sinful actions that are not remedied. Many years ago Paul Achtemeier suggested some modern parallels to the radical actions proposed by Jesus back in his time. “If your TV causes you to sin: turn it off! If your computer causes you to sin: disconnect it! If your magazine subscription causes you to sin, cancel it! If your job position or power causes you to sin, resign! If your bank account causes you to sin, give it away.” In other words, absolutely nothing is worth jeopardizing your eternal life with Jesus Christ!

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Jesus talked about Gehenna many times, warning his listeners about attitudes and actions that remain unconverted (CCC #1034). We must not take his words lightly! We must get to the root of our problems, and launch a course correction.

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Insiders and Outsiders
The relationship between members of a special group or community with those who do not belong to it can sometimes present a problem. We see good examples of that in today’s readings. Both Moses and Jesus are able to see God at work in outsiders. In the first reading Joshua asks Moses to stop some people from prophesying because they were not publicly called to be prophets. Moses reprimands Joshua and wishes that God would give this gift to all the people. In the Gospel the disciples tell Jesus that they tried to stop someone from exorcizing demons in Jesus’ name because he was not one of them. But Jesus tells them “any one not against us is for us.” Both readings teach us that God can give his gifts wherever and to whomever he wants. In the second part of the Gospel Jesus holds “insiders” to a very high standard of behavior among themselves. He warns against leading others into sin by bad behavior. Even though he speaks metaphorically about cutting off hands or eyes, the metaphor stands for something that must never be compromised. No matter what gifts we have been given, or what power and authority we may have, we must be ready to learn from others and to serve all.

Lord, your gifts give joy to my heart. Help me to recognize the gifts of the Spirit in others and to use our own gifts wisely and unselfishly. Help us to see your presence in those who are not of our community.

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