Readings for September 27, 2015

Reading 1 Nm 11:25-29

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad,
were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp.
They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent;
yet the spirit came to rest on them also,
and they prophesied in the camp.
So, when a young man quickly told Moses,
“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, “
Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’aide, said,
“Moses, 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!”


Reading 2 Jas 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten,
your gold and silver have corroded,
and that corrosion will be a testimony against you;
it will devour your flesh like a fire.
You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers
who harvested your fields are crying aloud;
and the cries of the harvesters
have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.
You have condemned;
you have murdered the righteous one;
he offers you no resistance.

Gospel Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

At that time, 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.”
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.
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.

“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.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”

Our priest today remarked, “Well, that’ll wake you up on a Sunday morning,” and then proceeded to preach favorably on Pope Francis.

I, of course, will not take anything away from Pope Francis – but should we have even the slightest inclination to take anything away from the message of our Lord?
Though Abraham is the father of Judaism – and also of Christianity, and also of Islam – Moses is regarded as the chief prophet and leader of the Jews.  He is the great law giver and rescuer, after all.
In fact, he is the very worldly savior of the Jews – literally rescuing them from their worldly bondage, bringing them to their promised home.  It should not surprise us to find so many ready parallels with the Savior who would follow, Christ Jesus.
Here we see both men have the same reaction to “rogue” prophets.  One of their camp – a steady loyalist in both cases – observes another working great deeds without the official sanction of his leader.  He hurries to that leader and notes the conflict in power and influence that appears to be brewing.
And in both cases – with Moses and Jesus – we see the leader say, no, this is not our enemy.  Anyone doing as we do is on our side; in fact, it is impossible that they could do these things and oppose us!  Therefore, do not trouble them.
The modern, relativistic temptation is to project this onto our own times, and say that the lesson applies across religions, perhaps even into non-religion.  But this is obviously nonsense.
There is, after all, a certain integrity to what both Jesus and Moses are saying.  It’s not a message of inclusion – it’s a message of alliances, and of a generous spirit where authentic holiness is concerned.  There is still a bar to clear, and it is high.
And the second reading, after all, does give us something of the spirit of Pope Francis – more St. Francis, by the urgency and abandon – though our Pope casts his language a bit more gently.  On the other hand, if we learn anything from Jesus in the Gospel, it is the truth, spoken harshly if necessary, which is genuine charity for sinners.

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