September 27: 26th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-42,45,47-48
The message of this Sunday’s readings centers on God's Spirit who is poured out to all the baptized, and not limited only to those of our company. The mark of a true disciple of Christ is an attitude of tolerance, compassion and acceptance of the gifts of others. In the First Reading from the Book of Numbers, we are led to discover the temptation of showing that we are better than others. God tells Moses to bring together seventy of the elders of the people to share the burden of the people along with him. These elders would share the responsibility with him. But among the seventy elders chosen, Eldad and Medad stayed behind in the camp and prophesied. When Joshua heard this, he was upset because two men, who had been absent when God gave the gifts of the Spirit, also received the same gift as the seventy elders. Joshua was trying to put limits to God's gifts and action. The response of Moses to Joshua is important: “Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!” It points to the fact that carrying out of God’s message in the world is not the task of only a chosen few in the Church. It challenges us to be humble, inclusive and tolerant.
In the Gospel we find a similar episode. The disciples had just been given the authority to expel demons in the name of Jesus. On their way they found someone not of their company expelling demons in the name of Jesus, and had tried to stop the man. John who belonged to the inner circle tells Jesus how they tried to stop him and point out to him that they alone are the chosen ones and not he. Jesus also had sent the disciples on a mission where they had worked the miracles and had healed the people and cast out devils. They had received the praises for their good work. They felt that their privileged position was no more secure because a person who was not of their group had cast out devils as well. And not just driving out evil spirits but doing so in the name of Jesus. So they tried to stop him. Jesus responded that the man should have been left alone, because anyone performing miracles in Jesus' name is certainly on their side. Once again, the response of Jesus is not simple, nor is it immediately evident when he declares, “Anyone who is not against us is for us.” Elsewhere Jesus says: “He who is not with me is against me.” What exactly did Jesus mean? The kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus is not confined within the boundaries of the Catholic Church. The mission of the Church is to reveal and proclaim its presence, not to claim a monopoly over it. Looking at both the first reading and the Gospel, we are led to discover that perhaps we tend to behave very much like Joshua and the disciples. We tend to take our belonging to Christ or even to the Catholic Church as some kind of an exclusive club, or even as a monopoly of Christ's gifts of the Spirit. So what message do we take home? 1) The mark of a true disciple of Christ is an attitude of tolerance, compassion and acceptance of the gifts of others. 2) God's Spirit is not limited to those of our company or to a chosen elite group. The Holy Spirit is not even limited to this or that Church. 3) God's Spirit is at work in all those who seek him with a sincere heart (Fourth Eucharistic Prayer).
©2009 John M. Mbinda