Sunday, 9/30/2018, Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Don’t Shoot the Messenger
First Reading Commentary: Numbers 11:25-29
Praying in tongues is something which most people do not understand unless they possess the gift. They shy away from situations where people will be praying in tongues and sometimes look down on people who pray in tongues. But praying in tongues is a charismatic gift from God through the person of the Holy Spirit. I consider this gift to be inherently Catholic and Jewish. Catholic because that is exactly what happened to Mary and the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday and Jewish because we see this gift several times in the Old Testament.
In today’s first reading from Numbers, the LORD bestowed some of the Spirit that was on Moses on the seventy elders and when Moses spoke to the elders, the Spirit rested on them and they prophesied. This does not mean that they began to speak on things that were yet to come. They began to speak with great enthusiasm sharing the LORD’s Word while giving praise and glory to the LORD. That is the charismatic gift of praying in tongues.
But what is significant and the basis of the message in today’s reading is based on the fact that two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, were not present when Moses spoke and yet the Spirit rested on them as well and they also prophesied.
This is a demonstration of God’s awesome power. It is also a demonstration of His love because it shows that if God wants you to have something, you will get it no matter where you are or what you are doing. You may not even know anything about it or where it is coming from, but all of a sudden, there it is!
Recently, I went to an event and witnessed a man make a public presentation of giving flowers to his wife. She gave him a plaque of appreciation. That was different. Who ever heard of giving a loved one a plaque? The beauty of it was that neither one knew that they were going to receive a gift from the other. It was not a special occasion. They just did it out of shear love. That is the kind of love that God has for us. You just never know when God will give you something special.
You might argue that God gives us something special every day. It is called life and that is true. But I’m talking about that which is over and above what we all have already. That’s what God did with Eldad and Medad when He bestowed the gift of tongues on them even though they were not with the other elders. And, as always, God had a reason.
They began to prophesy throughout the camp. So, Joshua, who was an aid to Moses, complained to Moses asking Moses to stop Eldad and Medad. But Moses asked, “Are you jealous for my sake?”
Joshua did not want Eldad or Medad to interfere with or compete with the influence that Moses had with the people. Noble thought but Moses knew that Joshua was speaking out of human jealousy with no regard for the Word that Eldad and Medad were sharing.
So, Moses made a point of letting Joshua know that the LORD uses: who He chooses to use for whatever it is that He wants done. In other words, the LORD will use whomever He wants to share His Word and it is not for us to interfere.
Moses wanted Joshua to understand that if you persecute the LORD’s messenger or anyone who belongs to the LORD; you persecute the LORD. That message is what all of today’s liturgy is about.
The Price Is Too High
Second Reading Commentary: James 5:1-6
So, what if I will never use everything that I have. So, what if it will all go to waste. I must have more. I don’t care that others don’t have as long as I have. I can’t be bothered with those who have not and I am not willing to pay a fare wage (that is enough to live on) to anyone that works for me. I want everything, including what you have and I will use you and anyone else that I can and whatever I can to get what I want—everything. There you have it—the deadly sin of greed.
The greedy will stop at nothing to have what they want. They will condemn others with lies. They will cheat, steal and even kill. Oh, they may get to enjoy their wealth here in this life but that is only temporary and will come to an end. Then all of their wealth is worthless and meaningless but not free. The sin of greed is a very expensive sin to commit. The price tag is hell!
Today, James tells us that greed will only make us miserable and ultimately, greed will destroy us. God will hear the cries of those whom we have taken from. James compares the cries of the oppressed to the murdered righteous one who offered no resistance—Jesus. The point is that when we offend others, we offend God.
Using a child as an example, Jesus taught us last week that when we accept and care for the oppressed, we accept and receive Him. Likewise, when we take from others and offend the oppressed, we deny Jesus and separate ourselves from Him because we break the Second Greatest Commandment and for that; we must pay the price.
Be with Jesus
Gospel Commentary: Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
In Matthew 16:14, Mark 8:29 and Luke 9:20, Jesus asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” In all three gospels, Peter was the first to confess that Jesus is the Christ.
Today, in Mark’s gospel, Jesus makes it clear that knowing who He is; is not enough. We must also be for Jesus—we have to be on His side and when we are, we can do no wrong. Jesus made His point by saying, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” Granted, Jesus was talking to the disciples when He made that statement but Jesus was giving that message to everyone who is not against Him.
This all came about because John complained to Jesus that someone who was not one of their followers was driving out demons in the name of Jesus and that he should be stopped. But Jesus let John know that the man should not be stopped because anyone who acts in the name of Jesus cannot speak ill of Jesus meaning that this man was a follower even though he was not physically with them. This is the connection to today’s first reading and my commentary, “Do not shoot the messenger.”
People often times criticize us, do not want to be around us and refuse to accept anything that we have to say because of our faith, especially in today’s world, where it seems that morals and principles have just gone to hell in a hand basket. We have to keep two things in mind. 1- It is our calling in baptism to share God’s Word—evangelize. 2- Jesus promises us that when we evangelize, we will not lose our reward.
That reward is heaven and Jesus made the promise many times but in today’s gospel He said, “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.”
There are a couple of issues beyond the promise itself. Notice that Jesus says, “…because you belong to Christ.” Jesus is proclaiming without doubt that He is the Christ and He is also proclaiming that when we act in His name, we belong to Him—we are one of His.
There are only two options. We can either be one of God’s children or we can belong to the evil one. There are no other alternatives and it is our choice.
Today, we see that those of us who choose to belong to Christ proclaim Him and Jesus promises our reward. But we also see that those who choose not to be with Christ follow the evil one and lead others into sin and we see the price that they pay for following the evil one.
Jesus said that it would be better for someone who leads others into sin to have a great millstone put around their neck and thrown into the sea. All throughout the bible, beginning with Adam and Eve, we see that God hates sin but he hates the act of leading another into sin even more.
Take a close look at Genesis 3:8-18. We do not come into the world with the stain of original sin simply because Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Adam was also punished for not being truthful to God by not taking responsibility for his wrongdoing but blaming it on Eve instead. Eve was also punished, and therefore all women with labor while giving birth, because she led Adam into the sin. The serpent was punished for leading Eve into the sin.
God does not want us to literally cut off our foot or pluck out our eye as Jesus said in today’s gospel. But God does want us to avoid and get rid of those things which will lead us into sin such as drugs, illicit sex and pornography. God does want us to stay away from those who will tempt us and try to lore us into sin.
When we do our best, which is all that we can do because none of us are perfect and all of us sin, we proclaim to the world by our actions that we are with Jesus. When we do that, God’s unlimited mercy and forgiveness for the sins that we do commit is ours and we do not lose our reward.
I have commented on Genesis 3:15 which is God’s first promise of salvation many times and, I am sure that I will comment on this passage again. Notice that the promise is not only a part of Genesis 3:8-18, but that it is also a part of the devil’s punishment. That’s right—God punishes the devil every time one of us chooses to be saved but we place ourselves in the company of Jesus—the offspring and the Savior.