Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Readings: Nm11:25-29; Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-42,45,47-48

Accepting the gifts of others and inclusiveness are the key words that help to focus on the central message of this Sunday. But first a story. There is a story of two eagles. One could out fly the other eagle, and the other was so envious that he didn't like it. The latter saw a sportsman with bows and arrows one day, and said to him: "I wish you would bring down that eagle." The sportsman replied that he would if he only had some feathers to put into the arrow. So the eagle pulled one feather out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but didn't quite reach the rival eagle; it was flying too high. The envious eagle pulled out more feathers, and kept pulling them out until he lost so many that he could not fly, and then the sportsman turned around and killed him. I tell this story because both the first reading and the gospel challenge us to cultivate the virtues of inclusion and tolerance by recognizing the work of the Spirit in others. In the gospel, the disciples think they have exclusive power by themselves and so try to stop someone who was driving out demons just like them. You and I can easily become obstacles to the Lord’s work. We can become a stumbling block without realizing it. The disciples in today’s gospel had to learn that they were being exclusive. Those they judged to be ‘not one of us’, Jesus regarded as being ‘for us.’ In contrast to his disciples, Jesus being inclusive was able to recognize and encourage goodness wherever he found it. He knew that the Spirit blows where it wills. He was alert to the presence of the Spirit in anyone. In the same way, Moses in the first reading recognizes and rejoices in the movement of the Spirit in the lives of Eldad and Medad, even though Joshua wants Moses to stop them prophesying.

We all have a role to play in recognizing and supporting the work of the Spirit in each other. Towards the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” (Thess 5:19) To quench the Holy Spirit in others is to become a stumbling block, an obstacle, to God’s work in their lives. We can quench the Spirit in others and hinder the good work that God is doing through them for a whole variety of very human reasons. We can be motivated by envy as Moses suggests Joshua was in today’s first reading. Like the disciples, we can refuse to acknowledge God’s good work in the lives of others because they are not ‘one of us’; because they belong to a different church, religion or race. The eagle in the story motivated by envy refused to accept the gift of the other eagle to fly higher but lost his life. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The mark of a true disciple and steward of Jesus Christ is an attitude of 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) Rather than quenching the Spirit in others and hindering the good work that God is doing through them, we are urged to recognize, encourage and affirm others their achievements.

©2015 John S. Mbinda

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