If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 28 September 2018

26th Sunday Year B 2018

26th. Sunday (Year B)
(Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48)

Something of the beauty of Moses’ character can be seen in in our first reading today.
The people of Israel had been very troublesome to Moses and the Lord had accepted his prayer for help, and told him:

I will come down (in the cloud over the tent) and speak with you there. I will also take some of the spirit that is on you and will bestow it on seventy of the elders of Israel, men you know for true, that they may share the burden of the people with you. You will then not have to bear it by yourself. 

The Lord did according to His word and sixty-eight of the chosen seventy elders prophesied as some of the spirit on Moses came to rest on them.   However, two of those chosen -- Eldad and Medad by name -- had not gone out to the tent with the others and yet, the spirit came to rest on them also, so that they prophesied, apparently independently and of themselves, inside the camp.  

When a young man told Joshua son of Nun -- who from his youth had been Moses’ aid -- what was happening, Joshua rushed to Moses and said, “My lord, stop them.”  But Moses answered him:

Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow His spirit on them all!

Moses had no thought whatsoever about his own prestige or standing with the people, he was quite satisfied, indeed totally content, with the sublime privilege of being at one with God and of seeing God glorified in and by His people.

We have more of that fulfilling joy in God brought out in the Gospel passage today, where Jesus strives to guide the Twelve into an awareness and appreciation of the wondrous beauty and special dignity of their own relationship with Him as His Personally chosen disciples-cum-Apostles: after all, hadn’t three of them just witnessed His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, hadn’t they heard Him speaking there with Moses and Elijah!

John and his brother James had been indignant about, and probably somewhat jealous of, an unknown person drawing attention to himself by performing apparent miracles:

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out
demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” 

Whereupon, Jesus replied:

Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My name who can at the same time speak ill of Me.  For whoever is not against us is for us.

John and James had been concerned about someone apparently stealing their thunder.  Of course, they could excuse their displeasure and explain-away their annoyance as zeal for the honour of Jesus and, no doubt, that would to a certain extent be true, since they did indeed love Him.  Nevertheless, John and James were not called ‘Sons of Thunder’ for nothing, and something of their naturally fiery temperament had been stoked up to streaming-point by the unknown and, above all unauthorised, worker-of-wonders.

Let us take close note of Our Blessed Lord’s wisdom, patience, and goodness in His reply.   First of all, with regard to their concern about His good name:

Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My name who can at the same time speak ill of Me.

Notice, then, how He deals with their personal disturbance and exasperation:

Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against us is for us.

What wonderfully chosen and beautifully phrased words, able both to restrain and correct whilst at the same time giving comfort and offering encouragement!

In our first reading Moses had been fully content with his lot as a servant acceptable to and appreciated by the Lord his God; Joshua had, on the other hand, been most solicitous for Moses’ prestige in the eyes of the people.  Now, in our gospel passage, John and James -- like Joshua -- had not thus far reached the spiritual heights of Moses; they did not as yet fully appreciate and treasure their relationship with Jesus above all else, they had not thus far come to recognize the transcendent worth and beauty of the grace and truth to be found in Him as would St. Paul later:

I consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith, to know Him and the power of His resurrection and (the) sharing of His sufferings by being conformed to His death.  (Philippians 3:8ss.)

The supreme value of oneness with Jesus, so esteemed and longed for by Paul, was not fully appreciated by the young Apostles and today, that failing, in a most exaggerated and pernicious form, is widespread in Mother Church among so many frail and/or nominal Catholics who have been brought up in a world become excessively aware of merely human rights and dignity, privileges not understood according to the Gospel of Jesus, but as defined and established by worldly, totally secular and political, authorities. Such vulnerable ‘followers of Jesus’ consequently find themselves unable to truly appreciate the privilege of friendship with a transcendent God, in-and-through the Person of One Who is both God and man, Jesus of Nazareth, uniquely beloved of God and uniquely devoted to the salvation of mankind.

Our world and indeed the whole universe is God’s creation: it is wholly from the God of infinite goodness, it silently witnesses to God’s unimaginable and endless beauty, it unceasingly praises God’s sublime majesty; moreover, it is also for the whole of mankind.   But for those who can only recognize human values, God’s sublimity is both shocking and challenging for human pride, and friendship with Him in and through the God-made-man-for-us can seem a frightening responsibility. Such fear and fright easily lead such vulnerable disciples to begin to question not only God’s majesty and presence in the physical world around us but, even more, His healing and saving power -- in and through His Church -- for human society and for their own individual lives in particular.  Quiescence in such a state can only lead to Jesus’ saving grace and His promise of eternal life and fulfilment, becoming not only side-lined and gradually ignored, but even being denied and ultimately hated: all in total compliance with the world’s yearning for pseudo freedom to be what they want to be and for pseudo love to delight in whatever pleasures and pleases them.

In such a situation it behoves us to return to Our Blessed Lord Jesus again for guidance, comfort, and strength.

He understood fully the Zebedee brothers’ feelings for Him and for themselves, and so, He lovingly and most humbly opened up for them a beautiful insight into the possibilities of their relationship with Himself by His use of one tiny word, ‘us’.   Jesus did not speak to them of what they had been privileged to see on Mount Tabor because the ‘sons of thunder’ had had their nose put out of joint (as the common and somewhat vulgar phrase has it) by the fact that this stranger had DONE something himself, and in doing something he had shown himself to be a somebody whereas they, James and John, had done nothing, they had merely SEEN something taking place before them.  The fact is, dear People of God, those two ‘sons of thunder’, though called to become Apostles, were still potentially proud, and actually very self-centred.  But, for all that, notice how Jesus so patiently, so compassionately, deals with these two!   He draws their special attention to one, tiny, word, minuscule in size but full of, capable of embracing, endless possibilities of the deepest sensitivity, most startling beauty, and totally self-forgetting power of commitment and peace:

            Whoever is not against US is for US!

The anonymous miracle-worker is not included in the embrace of that one word ‘us’ as used by Jesus.   And having said that, Jesus had no need to say more …. the Spirit was at work in His few words and His disciples now humbled hearts.

Although that unknown man had been immensely privileged to work wonders in the name of Jesus – works far beyond his own natural abilities,  John and James were now being called to recognize and treasure the ‘pearl beyond price’ in the Christian experience of life before and with God … that is, oneness with and love for Jesus, a pearl so graced as to able to burn away all thoughts of self and self-interest in a furnace of total love for and commitment to One supremely and sublimely beautiful, holy, and true.

It is the same for Catholics and Christians being persecuted openly or deceptively in our world today; and the question before each of us is that put to James and John, and ultimately to Peter and the whole Church:

Do you love Me more than yourself and the world?  Do you truly want to love Me?

Dear People of God, for all of you who can humbly and sincerely answer that last question with a ‘Yes’ there is only one further question, and that is inevitable:

            Are you therefore willing to work on and try to develop   your desire to love Me.

‘Yes’ to that question, is the life’s work and joy of all true Catholics and Christians.