Reflection for Sunday – September 26, 2021
Readings: Numbers 11: 25-29; James 5: 1-6; Mark: 9: 38-43, 47-48
Preacher: Carol May
God’s Word, Many Voices is the title of this website and also a very apt title for today’s readings. The Spirit of God, as rested on Moses, is shared with his 70 elders, but this message is challenged by Joshua and others as they complain about Eldad and Medad prophesizing, stating that they were not officially “liturgically installed” and need to be stopped.
Today’s readings focus on sharing God’s spirit. Moses wants God’s spirit to rest on all. His response to questions of who can and should share God’s message is, in a word, Everyone! Moses is very clear when he muses, “would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!”
That is each of us. But, how do we do that? Are we free to share our faith in Jesus? Do we shy away from talking about the miracles we have experienced? Is the way we live our life a witness to the love we profess? Do we feel “pushy” when we invite others to share our faith?
Years ago, I had a friend who was going through a rough time. I invited her for a cup of tea and time to share. We talked and cried and listened. Part way through the afternoon, she looked at me and said, “I want what you have.” Confused, thinking she wanted another cup of tea, I asked, “What?” And she simply said, “your faith.” It was those simple two words that made me appreciate what I had long been taking for granted… my faith and how that could affect another person.
Mark’s Gospel picks up the same theme as it starts out with ,“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent them because he does not follow us.”
Jesus, however, replies, “Do not prevent them” and clarifies that these deeds are for all to perform. If what is shared is of the Spirit of God, then go for it!
But—and here’s the big “But”—be wary of those who, through their actions or words or teachings cause another to sin, to fall away, to scandalize. Beware!
It is sadness that fills me as I think of the widespread harm that has been done to children and vulnerable adults by abusers. This horror has caused lifelong trauma for the victims, whole communities, and for the church and society. The sex abuse scandal in our church and the inadequate way with which it has been handled has caused church leadership to loose moral authority, not only among Catholics, but in much of society. We must listen to those who have suffered, to the communities that have been betrayed, and we must pray for and with them. We also pray for healing for the abusers and for those who cause others to go astray.
Jesus offers redemption as he urges the disciples to root out whatever causes them to sin so that they may still experience everlasting life. His images are harsh —the cutting out of the physical maladies, the smoky, smelly garbage dump of Gehenna! But, better to lose the sinful parts than to be banned from the paradise that a life in Christ offers. Let us remember that God’s Holy Spirit is within each of us, firing us up to act with positive spiritual wisdom. As today’s Psalmist sings, “the precepts of the Lord give joy to my heart… refreshing the soul.”