26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME B
REFLECTIONS ON THE GOSPEL Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Jesus describes a heavy responsibility which belongs to each of us in today's Gospel. First he tells us that all who aid the spread of the Gospel in even the smallest way will be rewarded ("anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward").
But then comes the warning: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. . . ." What Jesus is saying is that we must preach the authentic Gospel, never leading people astray.
Most of our preaching is done by the way we live our lives. Do we lead people astray? Do we who preach a Gospel of Life with our lips, live a Gospel of Life as well? When people watch the way we have treated our elderly parents, do they learn about the Gospel of Life? Do they see us visiting nursing homes and hospitals or caring for the old widow who lives alone down the street?
Do we preach against abortion by helping the mother who has decided, sometimes against great odds, to "keep" her child? Will we be there when the child begins to grow and she does not know how to care for him? Will our dollars and time and wisdom be there to support her when she struggles to balance work and childcare?
And what of the man who sits, solitary and with little hope, on death row? Will we defend his right to life when our friends want him killed? Do we work for judicial reforms and legislative efforts with the same fervor we show for all life issues? Most of all, do we pray for him?
A consistent preaching of the Gospel of Life is only achieved through the consistent living out of the Gospel, in season and out, when people are looking and when they are not.
Today's Gospel reminds us that our salvation is at stake. For if we mislead the "little ones" by saying one thing and not living it out, we risk consignment to Gehenna itself!
REFLECTIONS ON THE SECOND READING Saint James 5:1-6
Saint James unabashedly helps us to get our priorities straight in today's second reading.
So often we are convinced that it is pleasure, and its incarnation in all the "things" we own, that is the purpose of life. Saint James creates for us a vision of what happens to the man who puts his trust in wealth and not in God.
He describes a scene where riches are rotting away, clothes are moth-eaten, and even gold and silver corroded. Indeed, the rusting of our gold and silver becomes a testimony against us on the last day. "You trusted in us," our possessions say to us, "and not in the things that matter!"
Each sin against the Gospel of Life is rooted in poor eyesight. We look at a child in the womb, and see an impediment to our pleasures. We look at an old man dying and in need of care and we see an impediment to our pleasures. We look at a prisoner on death row and we see an impediment to our pleasures.
Each time we sin against the Gospel of Life we choose to make ourselves rich and let another die. It is as simple as that. To see the other as "thou" and not "it" is the essence of the Gospel of Life. Our whole nation would be well advised to take the warnings of Saint James to heart, "lest by the accumulation of our pleasures" we "fatten our hearts for the day of slaughter!"
REFLECTIONS ON THE FIRST READING Numbers 11:25-29
Even those who have dedicated their lives to defending life are subject to sin. How often are we like the seventy elders who complained that others who are not like us have no right to preach the Gospel of Life?
Each person, young or old, Protestant or Catholic, believer or atheist, bright or slow, rich or poor, conservative or liberal—each person is called upon to defend life with whatever resources he or she might have at his disposal. None should be excluded, for each voice is needed in the defense of life.
Who are we that we should criticize the work of another? Rather, our hearts should daily be filled with gratitude for the gift of such a chorus of voices working in our country to reverse the culture of death. As Moses said to the seventy grumbling elders, "Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!"