Sunday, October 01, 2006

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-Sixth Sunday
Ordinary Time
Oct. 1, 2006
Numbers 11:25-29
James 5:1-6
Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48

As I grow older I have come to realize that there are only a few things that I can really know. Among these are, that I love my wife more than life itself, but perhaps more importantly, that there is a God, and it is not me. That is undoubtedly a good thing for the rest of humanity, because, believe me, if I were God the world would be a very different place! Certainly not a better place, just a different place, because after all, who really needs all this free will business? I’m God, so by definition I’m right, so agree with me or…
We humans tend to believe that the things we believe in, the way we believe in them, are the only way to believe, the only way to be. If you are not with us, you must be against us. We see this drama being played out in both the reading from Numbers (scripture, not the television show) and in the Gospel. In Numbers Moses and most of the elders have gone to the meeting tent where the spirit of the Lord comes on them and they begin to prophesy. Two men, Eldad and Medad, remained in the camp but received the spirit and began to prophesy as well. Joshua wanted to stop them, after all, they were not in the right place, they were not with the group, but Moses assures Joshua that their prophesying is good, indeed if only all the people would experience the spirit, if only all were prophets. Moses had no problem because he realized that these men were on God’s side, to stop them just because of location would be an offense to God.
In the Gospel John tells Jesus of a man, not one of them, driving out demons in Jesus’ name. John, just like Joshua, wants to stop this man because “he does not follow us.” This time it is Jesus’ turn to assure his followers that it is alright. Just because they do not know this man, or because he does not follow them, he should not be stopped. Indeed, Jesus says that he cannot act in this way and speak ill of them, so why should he be stopped? “For whoever is not against us is for us.”
This drama is also being played out, unfortunately, in the church today. Among Christians there is too much these days a tendency to define Christianity in very narrow terms, leaving some people out, despite what they may profess to believe. You don’t believe the way I do, or in all the things I do, or in some things that I don’t believe in, so you cannot be Christian. Before we Catholics get to smug, this little drama is very much alive in our Church as well. A word I hear all too much these days is heretic. Someone does something that I think is wrong, or not in line with what I think the Church teaches and - BANG- that person must be a heretic. What gives any of us the right to make that decision? I have been ordained as a minister by this Church and I don’t feel qualified to use that word about another person. Who am I to decide that? And when did the definition of what it means to be a Catholic Christian get so narrow that we feel we must begin labeling people heretic? We cannot allow ourselves to fall into this trap of defining things so narrowly, of deciding that we can speak for God. It is not up to me to say who is Catholic, who is Christian, who is “saved.” Dom Helder Camara was bishop of the poorest place in Brazil until his death in 1999. Allow me to quote him here, “What a surprise it will be when one day we see the Father face to face. Then we shall realize how poor, limited and imperfect a vision of God we have now. And the same goes for truth. We have no monopoly of the Holy Spirit. We should be humble about people who, even if they have never heard the name of Jesus Christ, may well be more Christian than we are.”
As I said, I am not, thank God, God. And thank God that none of the rest of us are either. We are not all exactly the same, but we are all family, all children of God, the God who said, “ For whoever is not against us, is for us.”
Deacon John Simmons
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 1, 2006

1 comment:

angelmeg said...

Thanks for this. We attended the final Mass for the Consumed retreat that my Daughter attended. While I agreed with everything Fr. Jonathan Meyer said in his homily, it wasn't quite as meaningful to me as your words of wisdom.

You do have a gift my friend.