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Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time B

September 19, 2021

Mark 9: 38-40, 45, 47-38

By Rev. John Tran

Even we Christians find it difficult to focus on God and what will further his Kingdom. The readings for this Sunday call us back to our original purpose: to become like Jesus Christ and promote his Father’s Kingdom. All to often we get caught up in ourselves, our agenda, our advancement.

Let’s look at the first reading from the Book of Numbers. Moses is tired of the complaining of the people God has chosen as his own. They are focused only on having enough to eat or to drink; they are tired of the long journey to the Promised Land and are beginning to wish they has stayed in Egypt.

Moses has told God that the burden is too great for him. So, God appoints 72 elders to help Moses in the administration of the large crowd of discontented people. When God sends his spirit into them, two of the chosen are not with the others, but back in the camp. Now, they receive the same spirit as the others and begin to prophesy in the camp. Joshua, who is Moses’ right hand man takes offense and complains to Moses. Joshua felt slighted and overlooked; he wanted to be the center of any help Moses would have. He was centered, not on what God wanted, but on his own advancement.

Now we come to the Letter of James. James targets the rich trying to show what can easily happen to those who have everything and share nothing. The accumulation of wealth can become an end in itself. It is easy not to look beyond oneself and one’s comfort and power. It can lead to abuse like not paying a just wage to workers, taking advantage of power, not to do good, but to cause want and suffering. It makes us look at how we use the blessing we receive from the Lord, whether material or spiritual.

This is made clear in the gospel reading from Mark. Apparently, someone who is not part of Jesus’ immediate group of disciples is doing good in Jesus name. John is aggravated about this. It is not right to John that a person not directly connected to Jesus should be expelling demons in Jesus’ name. Why is John so upset? Could it be that John feels that his hold on power is threatened? Could it be that John is afraid that this person could lead people astray from Jesus? John is suspicious because he feels threatened; he feels that this power should be only the exclusive right of the disciples. John is upset because this person is different, not exactly like them, the disciples.

What is Jesus’ response? That such a gift would not have been given if God had not approved. The disciples did not have sole ownership of God, nor did the whole people of Israel.

According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man’s feet and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So, Abraham asked him, “Don’t you worship God?” The old traveler replied, “I worship fire only and reverence no other god.” When Abraham heard this, he became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out of his tent into the cold night air. When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, “I forced him out because he did not worship You.” God answered, “I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?” We are all children of God, and, hence, we have to love and tolerate everyone, as explained in today’s first reading and the Gospel.

Today is a look to look at our ministry, our living out of my Christian faith. Am I too attached to the power it may give me? Do I use the gifts of ministry that I have been given for God’s plan or my own agenda? Am I centered of God, or am I centered on myself or my group. Do I seek to include people in the life of the parish? Do I try to understand those of different backgrounds from myself? Let’s remember the words of Moses: “ Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord would bestow his spirit on them all.”

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