From the Pastor's Desk
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Today’s Scripture readings give us a strong warning against jealousy, intolerance and giving scandal.
In the first reading, we find jealousy, in its destructive form of envy, raising its ugly head in Moses’ assistant and successor, Joshua. Moses and seventy future helpers were called by the Lord God to the Tent of Meeting for the Spirit-giving Ordination ceremony. But two of the invitees were absent, and Joshua could not tolerate these absent men prophesying in the camp without receiving God’s Spirit in the Tent of Meeting. Moses had to instruct Joshua to be tolerant. This selection is intended to provide a Biblical background for Jesus’ response to the same kind of jealousy apparent in the apostles.
The Refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 19), “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart,” reminds us that obedience to the spirit of the Law will draw us closer to God and so give us lasting joy.
In the second reading, James warns the rich against giving scandal by their denial of social justice to their workers in refusing to give them a living wage, by ignoring the needs of others, and by condemning and murdering the innocent and the righteous. Withholding a day-laborer's wage was a terrible act of injustice, tantamount to murder in the agricultural economy of the ancient Middle East. Baptism commits every Christian to work for social justice through peaceable, rather than violent, means.
In the Gospel, we find intolerance among the apostles of Christ. John complains to Jesus that a man outside their group of selected disciples has been exorcising demons in Jesus’ Name, despite their attempt to prevent him from doing so. Jesus responds by giving the Apostles lessons in Jesus’ own kind of tolerance and in the reward to be given to outsiders for good deeds they have done for the apostles because they are the disciples of Jesus. We also hear the strong warning of Jesus against giving scandal, especially to innocent children, to vulnerable members of the community, and to beginners in the Faith. Jesus instructs the Apostles, and us, that, just as a doctor might remove by surgery a limb or some part of the body to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us or others to sin and which leads to spiritual death.
1) Let us avoid conduct that can lead to giving scandal. We give scandal and become stumbling blocks to others: a) when we are unkind or unjust in our treatment of them, b) when we humiliate them by hurting their pride and damaging their self-image, c) when we discourage, ignore, or refuse to accept them, and d) when we become judgmental of those who are still struggling to reach a level of commitment that we feel is too low to be useful.
2: Let us learn the Christian virtue of tolerance: Christian tolerance asks that we bear with the weaknesses of others (without condoning the evil they do), by: a) remaining true to our conscience and beliefs, b) respecting the differences we encounter, c) working together on projects of common interest, d) affirming what is good in the other person’s position, even when we disagree on certain things, and e) allowing the light of Christ to shine through our loving words and deeds.