26th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Fr. Gerard Jonas

Homily of 30 September 2018

Nm 11:25-29, Ps 19: 8,10,12-13,14; Jas 5:1-6, Mk 9:38-43,45,47-48

On Sundays and other Solemnities, we profess our faith by using either the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed.

The Nicene Creed is called Nicene because it was originally adopted by the First Council of Nicea in 325. But in 381 it was amended at the First Council of Constantinople, and the amended form is referred to as the Nicene or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. It is the only ecumenical creed because it is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches. The Nicene Creed defines the four important qualities or marks of the Church:

The Church is one. We have one Lord and we share one faith. We receive one life in the Holy Spirit.

The Church is holy. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are holy. In the sacraments, we receive all we need to make us holy.

The Church is catholic. Catholic means universal. Jesus told the apostles to teach all nations. The Church reaches out to all.

The Church is apostolic. Jesus founded the Church with the apostles. The pope and bishops continue their mission today.

The Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

Today’s readings help us understand the meaning of the Church as Catholic or universal, inclusive and never exclusive. The Lord Jesus came into the world to save and not condemn the world. The Lord came for all and not just for a few or a select group of people. The Lord is the savior of all humankind.

However, we see in the readings that we sometimes do not live by this universal mission of Christ.

Both in the Old and New Testaments, we heard how the spirit of exclusivism has crept in. Joshua complained to Moses that Eldad and Medad, who, while not among the Chosen Seventy Elders, were also prophesying. In the same manner, John reported to Jesus that they tried to stop someone who was also expelling demons because he was not one of them. Both Moses and Jesus reprimanded this attitude of intolerance. The Kingdom of God is for all and the Spirit of God unceasingly inspires people to spread the Good News of the Kingdom. It is sad that sometimes legitimate laws and even religious structures may be used to legitimize exclusion, so much the opposite of God’s way of inclusion.

Jesus further denounces the ways we tend to block His work of leading people into God’s Kingdom. Our ways of life may be a scandal that prevents others to also follow Jesus. Likewise, it may also happen that we may prevent not only others but also ourselves from following Jesus. So, Jesus issues warnings and remedies. Little acts may mean a lot, either for good or for evil. Even just a cup of water could gain rewards, in the similar way that just a simple act, word or thought could be a scandal that may condemn into eternal punishment. Then Jesus tells of how we need to extract or move away from disordered attachments. Sometimes the things that most endanger us seem to be normal and acceptable. Sometimes the greatest threats to our lives are the things that appear to be a part of our very selves. So, in using shocking language, Jesus suggests that we cut off our hand or our foot or pluck out our eye. Jesus knows that at times there are things in our life that need to end. And even though it seems like we are cutting off a piece of ourselves, refusing to take that step would endanger something of even greater value.

James, in his letter, also reminds us that what we own could mean our salvation or damnation depending on how we use it or not use it for the benefit of others. The life and love we receive from God are intimately connected to our call to be prophets and members of the body of Christ.

Today’s readings emphasize one particular thing we need to extract: the attitude of narrow-minded intolerance. Moses rejects Joshua’s intolerance and says that God is free to grant God’s spirit, even if it does not come through Moses. Jesus rejects John’s intolerance and tells him, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” As everyone is invited into God’s Kingdom, so is the ministry for it is offered to all. God’s call to his Kingdom is universal.

So, when we receive the Eucharist today, let it be for us the effective remedy that allows us to always be turned towards the Lord, faithful in his service and respectful and welcoming towards all in His universal call to Himself. Let us seek with all our souls, our minds, our bodies, and our strength to humbly serve and obey the Lord Jesus in His Mystical Body the Church.