FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time ( B )
Numbers 11:25-29 | Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14 | James 5:1-6 | Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Our Scriptures on this Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time remind us that God desires that all the people be in his winning team, that love for money and material things get in the way of our relationship with God and that holiness is greater than wholeness.
Kenyan runner Abel Mutai was only a few meters from the finish line, but got confused with the signs and stopped, thinking he had finished the race. The Spanish Iván Fernández Anaya, was right behind him and, realizing what was going on, started shouting to the Kenyan to keep running. Mutai did not know Spanish and did not understand. Realizing what was going on, Fernández stayed behind and, using gestures, guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first. A reporter asked Iván, "Why did you do this?" Ivan replied, "My dream is that one day we can have some sort of community life where we push ourselves and help each other win." The reporter insisted "But why did you let the Kenyan win?" Iván replied, "I didn't let him win, he was going to win. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn't have closed if he hadn't made a mistake. The race was his." The reporter insisted and asked again, "But you could have won!" Ivan looked at him and replied: "But what would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honor of this medal? What would my Mother think of it?" Ivan Fernandez Anaya taught us what true success means. We rise by lifting others.
In the First reading from the Book of Numbers, Moses has been feeling the burden of being the sole intercessor between God and the 600,000 people of Israel wandering in the desert. To help him, God appointed seventy elders who would assist Moses in the administration of the people. These helpers were to have a share in Moses’ own prophetic spirit and powers, and constitute a new leadership group. Joshua, who had been an assistant to Moses since youth, is concerned because Eldad and Medad, two of the elders, were no-shows at the tent of meeting. Nevertheless, the Spirit descended upon them also, and they began to proclaim God’s word throughout the camp. Moses told Joshua there was no reason to be jealous. He corrected the still young and immature Joshua, demonstrating an entirely different mindset. He said that he desires that all the people should share the gift of the Holy Spirit and become prophets. Sometimes those on the Lord’s team aren’t wearing the team uniforms and those who, in our perspective, are not actually helping the team win. Despite of this, God wants all of us on his team. He shows no partiality. He wants to bestow His gifts on everyone. Even those we think who are not qualified to be the Lord's ambassadors might in fact can be his messengers and partners.
Augusto gave his little girl Jelly ₱200 and said, “You can do anything you want with one of the bills, but the other ₱100 belongs to God.” With joy Jelly ran to the store. On the way, she tripped and one ₱100 bill fell into the storm drain. Jelly got up and said, “Well Lord, there goes your ₱100.”
We have heard from the practical wisdom of James for many weeks now. In this final excerpt from this series of readings from the Letter of James, the author reprimands people who are not only inordinately possessive of the earthly riches they have accumulated but also have grown rich at the expense of others. It is important to note that the author of James is not teaching that money is evil or being wealthy is wrong. Rather, he is condemning their love for money, to a certain extent where earthly riches have become an obstacle to their faith. The author was particularly critical of rich landowners who hoard their wealth and withhold proper wages from their workers. He was particularly critical of dubious suppliers who sell outrageously overpriced face masks and face shields at this time of pandemic. He was particularly critical of crooked businessmen who deliver near-expired Coronavirus test kits for double markup. Wealth is temporary. It can never truly fulfill us, no matter how much we have. And no matter how much we have, we can’t take it with us when we die. Therefore, we are called to be detached from our material possessions. They should never take precedence over our relationship with God and our call to serve others. The message here is that wealth is meaningless, and even condemning, if used improperly.
Deejhay, an altar server was praying with Fr. Ramon Liwasan, his parish priest. He said a prayer Fr. Ramon had heard many times before. “Lord, take the cobwebs out of my life.” Just as Deejhay said this Fr. Ramon interrupted, “Kill the spider, Lord.” Many times we ask the Lord to forgive us of some sin, yet we leave the source of temptation in our life.
Sin is so serious that Jesus says we should do whatever it takes to avoid it. In this Sunday's Gospel, we are reminded that we should get rid of anything that prevents us from following God. Everything in our life that proves to be a roadblock must be forcibly removed. Did you ever wonder how many of us who casually and indifferently repeat the words, "I confess to you my brothers and sisters that I have sinned," would still have a hand or an eye if we took this command literally? Jesus is not literally advocating for bodily harm and dismemberment. The purpose of the Christian life is to enter the Kingdom of God. Our Lord uses the radical surgery hyperbole to illustrate that holiness is greater than wholeness. It is a reminder that Eternal life is worth any sacrifice which we may be called on to make. He wants us to use our hands, legs, mouth, eyes and other parts of our body to do good things. Staying related to God means holiness; to eliminate that relationship means Gehenna. Gehenna was the name of a valley southwest of Jerusalem, where the rubbish of the city was thrown and where there was a unstoppable fire and worms. This malodorous place was used by the people to symbolize the situation of one who had no part in the Kingdom of God. Where do we start? Let's look at how we live daily. How do we party, date, study, work, treat family and friends, and spend money? Let's cut off unforgiveness, gossip, anger, and all other sins. Does anything else hold you captive, such as watching TV, leisure, luxuries, mobile games, the pursuit of money, or overeating? Make the cut! Be free. Enter eternal life. May God bless our efforts to cut off and root out evil in our lives. <enrique.ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum