September 28, 2012

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Numbers is the source of the first reading for this weekend.

Numbers is the fourth book in the sequence of the Bible as the Bible now appears.

It is the fourth book in the series of five books called the “Pentateuch,” borrowing its name from the Greek word for “five.”

These five books, called in Hebrew the “Torah,” form the basic law for Judaism, and together contain what came traditionally to be seen as the revelation of God to Moses primarily given during the Hebrew people’s long and difficult trek across the Sinai Peninsula in search of the Promised Land.

As is so well evidenced elsewhere in these five books, at times people rebelled against Moses. They even deserted the One True God on occasion. Still, God forgave them and, through Moses, God guided them.

In the incident told in this reading, God inspired not only Moses, but also 70 elders who were wise and experienced men among the people. Impelled by this holy inspiration, the elders prophesied as, of course, did Moses.

Then two other men came onto the scene. They had not been among the 70 elders. Yet, God’s spirit also inspired them, and they began to prophesy.

The people protested to Moses. How could anyone outside Moses and the 70 wise elders presume to speak with God’s authority?

Moses refused to silence these two men, saying that he wished that all the people would be so inspired, so willing and so eager to proclaim the greatness of God.

For its second reading this weekend, the Church chooses a selection from the Letter of St. James.

As is usual in the New Testament, the identity of the author is not given in any detail. What was of primary importance in the early Church was that the authors of the Scriptures were from the generation of the Apostles. They believed that the author of this letter was part of that generation.

This reading is very frank. It reminds us of the impermanence and, in the end, the uselessness of material things. The lure of material things can be not only a waste of time, but also deadly if it becomes our only objective.

St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

St. John, an Apostle, approaches Jesus with the news that strangers are expelling demons, invoking the name of Jesus as their authority. Are they authentic? Or must they be stopped?

Jesus then says that anyone who truly believes in what he is preaching—and therefore believes in him—must be accepted.

His disciples must give water to the thirsty because the thirsty belong to Christ.

Reflection

Always in reading the Gospels, it is important to realize that these four great fundamental documents of Christianity came not from the time of Jesus, but from the Christian community as it existed decades after Jesus.

This Christian community included Jews—as did the audiences first to hear Jesus—but also gentiles.

As is inevitable in human gatherings, many instincts and traditions came forward. What transcends all these? It is the Gospel.

The Gospel this weekend calls us away from self-interest and struggle. It calls us to God. God empowers people to believe, to understand and to love.

Without God, we can do little. Genuine reward in life is in being with God and living for God. It requires faith and strength.

It also requires guidance. This guidance usually does not come singularly within ourselves. It never comes without God’s grace and help.

Unwilling in divine love to see us go astray, God sends us messengers to lead us home.

Listen and watch. Hear God. Remember that God has sent the Apostles to us, and that they live in the Church.

The messengers may present advice that immediately is not acceptable to us. We often respond by questioning the messengers.

We must follow God’s word. As Christians, we depend on God. †

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