Readings: Numbers11:25-29, Psalm 19:8,10,12-13,14, James 5:1-6, Mark 9:38-43.45.47-48
God’s power is beyond our tendencies, we cannot limit it
Today’s gospel starts with the disciple John recounting to Jesus how they saw one who was not part of the apostles driving out devils in the name of Jesus and how they tried to stop him because he was not part of the “approved apostles”.
The apostles, being the ones, whom Jesus sent and gave the mandate to cast out devils knew that this was their mission, no one else had the power and authority to do so except them, the chosen ones. Their experience is similar to the one in today's first reading when God took some of the spirit from Moses and gave it to the seventy elders, who as well begun to prophesy. Even the two elders who had not been present with the others received the same Spirit and begun to prophesy. But because they were not with the others, they thought that they had not received the Spirit and therefore had not the authority to prophesy.
The above texts express how often we want to create boundaries or build walls around ourselves and our groups of belonging to exclude others and how in so doing, we don’t see that we are trying to impede the work of God and the Holy Spirit in others. As long as what others are doing is good and not contradictory to what we believe or not contradictory to what God expects of us, we must recognize it and applaud the work of God through them. The message of Jesus Christ is a message of unity, a message of salvation not for just a section of humanity but the entire humanity. Anyone who is not against us is for us. Otherwise, attitudes that tend to exclude others despite their good works are e revelation that even those who are following us, to whom we minister are drawn not to Christ but us. This calls us not to impede the work of others. Let not jealousy and envy lead us to sideline others. It is not our initiative it is the initiative of the Holy Spirit who blows wherever He wills.
Be the reason for others’ faith, not their downfall
The best way we can express our sense of belonging to Christ is by offering a cup of water to others. This represents all kinds of assistance that we render to others for the sake of Christ, for the sense of our being Christians, just she calls us in Mathew 25:40 “.... whatsoever you do to the least of my brother, you do unto me”. Christ is present in the gestures of attention and cares towards others. We are called upon to render him present by helping others and uplifting their faith. by not being an obstacle to their faith but an enhancement.
The second part of the gospel passage is so radical and tough. Jesus speaks boldly against those who lead others astray and also against those parts of our bodies that make us sin. He metaphorically calls us to cut off our hands and feet and tear off our eyes if they cause us to sin. These call us and reminds us of the need for purification. Just like in the vine which is pruned to bear much fruit, (John 15:1-8) we need to prune off those destructive and unproductive attitudes in us that lead us to sin and away from God. So, the important verb for us today is cutting off. what do we need to cut off? We need to cut off those scandalous actions that are a barrier for us and others to access Christ.
The three symbols of the hands, the feet, and the eyes represent what we use every day. Our hands can create but can also destroy. They can give or retain. We must use them only for activities that make us pure and avoid those modes of actions that cut us away from Christ. Our feet should lead us and others to Christ, not away from him. There is a need to cut off that which makes us unable to walk, that which makes us stumble or stagger. So, cutting off these anti-Christ tendencies becomes for us a therapy, a path to healing and keeping spiritually healthy and pure.
We also need to purify our way of seeing such that our eyes see in others the good and wish well others. Not like the present famous saying “it will end in tears” which only tends to see evil even in the good events of the life of others.
The Lord in this gospel desires to put us on fire. A fire that purifies us and makes us part take of the abundance of life that he offers. Let us not be afraid to cut off the bad tendencies. We can do this by repentance, through the sacrament of reconciliation. Now having been on lockdown this sacrament will renew and revive us. It will cut away from us those bad habits that have been impeding us from doing good, from walking to the Lord and seeing the good in others, and it will reclaim us for God.
The lamentation and weeping that Saint James tells us in the second reading is part of the remorse that we must feel for the miseries that we have caused others. It is also a cry against the way we have wasted our time on things that don’t count, things that destroy us instead of those that build us. May the Lord purify us and make us live our life as a gift to enrich and strengthen others. Amen