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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – September 27,

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – September 27,

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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – September 27, 2009 Scripture Readings First Numbers 11:25-29 Second James 5:1-6 Gospel Mark

9:38-43, 45, 47-48 Prepared by: Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. 1. Subject Matter

God takes the initiative in our lives, acting in a creative, totally gratuitous, unexpected, unrestricted, new, surprising, exceptional way; the danger of our preconceptions, resistance, skepticism, and cynicism towards divine volition A self that is pure and ready for “the last days”; cutting off from us whatever impedes perfect integrity/unity with Christ and welcoming divine providence in authentic self-donation Belonging to Christ

2. Exegetical Notes

“Yet the spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp:” “The accent here is on the absolute sovereignty of God in the attribution of gifts as well as the gratuitousness of the God’s gift. The Spirit blows where it wills, beyond all human logic. God’s gifts are not reserved for those who exercise an official charge in the community; all members are able to receive them.” (The International Bible Commentary) “…that corrosion will be a testimony against you:” “James’ ire focuses on those wealthier Christians who lack a holistic faith. They have fraudulently held back the daily wages of the farm workers and other laborers in violation of the well-established social legislations of the Bible (notably Dt 24:14-15).” (The International Bible Commentary) “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:” This switch between “me” and “us” is extremely significant. “If your hand causes you to sin…:” “These sayings use hyperbolic and metaphorical language. Literally cutting off one’s hand or leg and plucking out one’s eye would not resolve the ‘cause’ of the problem. A one-handed, one-footed, one-eyed person can still be tempted, sin, and thus stumble. So too can people with no hands, no feet, and no eyes. The human dilemma is that the sinful nature is part of a person’s innermost being (7:18-23), and thus it

cannot be removed by any form of amputation. The sayings are a hyperbolic attempt by Jesus to warn his audience that there is no sin worth going to hell for. Better to repent, no matter how painful that repentance may be, and follow Jesus, whatever the cost, then to perish in hell. The seriousness of this warning is emphasized in several ways. The use of hyperbole is quite intentional. One uses such exaggerated language when what one is seeking to say is urgent. The threefold repetition of this teaching drives home its importance. The reward for repentance and the faithful exercise of self-discipline is described as “entering life” or “entering the kingdom of God.” (Robert H. Stein) 3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

759 "The eternal Father, in accordance with the utterly gratuitous and mysterious design of his wisdom and goodness, created the whole universe and chose to raise up men to share in his own divine life," to which he calls all men in his Son. "The Father . . . determined to call together in a holy Church those who should believe in Christ." This "family of God" is gradually formed and takes shape during the stages of human history, in keeping with the Father's plan. In fact, "already present in figure at the beginning of the world, this Church was prepared in marvelous fashion in the history of the people of Israel and the old Advance. Established in this last age of the world and made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit, it will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time." 2002 God's free initiative demands man's free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of "eternal life" respond, beyond all hope, to this desire. 1723 The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement - however beneficial it may be - such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love: All bow down before wealth. Wealth is that to which the multitude of men pay an instinctive homage. They measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability. . . . It is a homage resulting from a profound faith . . . that with wealth he may do all things. Wealth is one idol of the day and notoriety is a second. . . . Notoriety, or the making of a noise in the world - it may be called "newspaper fame" - has come to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground of veneration. 908 By his obedience unto death, Christ communicated to his disciples the gift of royal freedom, so that they might "by the self-abnegation of a holy life, overcome the reign of sin in themselves:" That man is rightly called a king who makes his own body an obedient subject and, by governing himself with suitable rigor, refuses to let his passions breed rebellion in his soul, for he exercises a kind of royal power over himself. And because he knows how to rule his own person as king, so too does he sit as its judge. He will not let himself be imprisoned by sin, or thrown headlong into wickedness.

1003 United with Christ by Baptism, believers already truly participate in the heavenly life of the risen Christ, but this life remains "hidden with Christ in God." The Father has already "raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Nourished with his body in the Eucharist, we already belong to the Body of Christ. When we rise on the last day we "also will appear with him in glory."

4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities

St. Thomas Aquinas: “Does prophecy call for goodness of life?... Prophecy can be without charity…. Prophecy, as other charisms, is granted for the utility of the Church…. It is not ordered directly so that the prophet’s will can be united to God, which is the purpose of charity. That is why prophecy can exist without goodness of conduct, if we bear in mind the fist root of all good conduct which is sanctifying grace…. There are some who receive the gift of prophecy solely for the benefit of others: they are thus instruments of divine operation. Thus St. Jerome writes, ‘To prophesy, or to work miracles, and to cast out devils, is at times not due to the merits of the one who so acts. But an invocation of the name of Christ produces the result; or else the gift is for the refutation of those who invoke the name, or again for the benefit of those who see and hear these wonders.’... Divine gifts are not always given to the best absolutely speaking, but sometime to those who are best as regards receiving this or that gift. Thus it is that God confers prophecy upon those he judges best to give it to.” (II-II 172, 4; ad 1; ad 4) St. Augustine: “He who worked miracles in the name of Christ, and yet did not join himself to the body of His disciples, in as far as he worked the miracles in His name, was with them, and was not against them: again, in that he did not join their society, he was not with them, and was against them. But because they forbade his doing that in which he was with them, the Lord said to them, Forbid him not; for they ought to have forbidden his being without their society, and thus to have persuaded him of the unity of the Church, but they should not have forbidden that in which he was with them, that is, his commendation of the name of their Lord and Master by the expulsion of devils.” St. Cyril of Jerusalem: “To make it clear that it was not Moses who bestowed the gift but the Spirit who wrought, Eldad and Medad, who had been called but had not yet presented themselves, also prophesied.” St. John Chrysostom: “One who lives soberly sees easily the mire and the stain, but one who gives himself up to wickedness, like one made drowsy with drunkenness, does not even realize that he is ill. This is the worst aspect of evil, that it does not allow those who fall into it even to see the seriousness of their own diseased state but that as they lie in the mire, they think they are enjoying perfumes. So they do not have the slightest inclination to free themselves.” St. Bede: “By refusing to give alms the rich think that they have done well in saving their treasure, and indeed they have, though hey have not seen what it will be used for, namely, their own condemnation.” Clementina: “Let none of you think that the Lord is here commending the cutting off of members. His meaning is that that incentive should be cut off, not the members. The causes which allure to sin are to be cut off, in order that our thought, borne up on the chariot of sight, may push toward the love of God, supported by the bodily senses. So do not give loose reins

to the eyes of the flesh as if you were wanton horses, eager to turn their running away from the commandments. Subject the bodily sight to the judgment of the mind. Do not permit these eyes of ours, which God intended to be viewers and witnesses of his work, to become procurers of evil desire.”

Symeon the New Theologian: “Do not deceive yourselves. God loves us, and he is merciful and compassionate. I myself testify and acknowledge that it is his compassion that makes me confident of being saved. Nevertheless you must understand that this will be of no avail to those who refuse to repent and to keep God’s commandments in every detail and with great fear. On the contrary, God will punish them more severely than people who are unbelievers and unbaptized. O brothers, do not deceive yourselves; let there be not sin that seems small in your eyes, and that you treat lightly, as though it did no great harm to our souls. The Word of God is like a blazing fire because it stirs up zeal in our souls, and makes us disregard all the sorrows of life, consider every trial we encounter a joy, and desire and embrace death, so fearful to others, as life and the means of attaining life.” Msgr. Ronald Knox: “We must not attempt to limit the scope of divine mercy.” Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar: “It is unbearable when someone outside or inside the Church misleads those who are spiritually or morally unfortified (‘on of these little ones’). The spiritual ‘superiority’ with which he seeks to lead the simple believer astray is satanic and merits merciless annihilation. But man can seduce himself: his evil desires lie in his hands, feet, and eyes, and he ought to move as mercilessly against these as against the seducer of others. Whatever leads astray should be destroyed; in graphic terms, the member that stimulates one to evil should be hacked off. A spiritually divided man does not reach God; anything in him that is contrary to God belongs in hell.” Msgr. Luigi Giussani: “Scandal is a Greek word that means ‘a stone in the street, a hindrance.’ The obstacle on the road to the truth is a form of falsehood. It’s called preconception. One has already formed, already fabricated, his opinion of Him. Christ is to the opposite of what I would like: the political I, I in love, I who thirst for money, I who desire a career, I who want a healthy life. He’s the opposite from whatever I place my hope in. And I do so in vain, because nothing hoped for ever comes about. The ‘no’ is born solely of preconception, from the fact that Jesus becomes a scandal, an impediment to what you’d like. Someone really only says ‘no’ to faith because he is impeded by something he wants, something that he wants that doesn’t coincide with the original and deep need of the heart, with elementary experience.”

• •

5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

St. Padre Pio (feast day: Sept. 23): In 1910 Padre Pio began to experience the stigmata just after being ordained a priest. As Padre Pio continued to exhibit the phenomenon, he began to attract a cult following. It was said he could look into people’s souls and, without them saying a word, know their sins. He could also allegedly experience “bilocation” (the ability to be in two places at the same time), emit an “odor of sanctity,” tell the future, and effect miraculous cures. The local clergy accused Padre Pio’s friary of putting him on display in order to make money. They expressed skepticism about his purported gifts and suggested the stigmata were faked.

6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI

“One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation…. Poverty is often produced by a rejection of God’s love, by man’s basic and tragic tendency to close in on himself, thinking himself to be self-sufficient or merely an insignificant and ephemeral fact, a “stranger” in a random universe. Man is alienated when he is alone, when he is detached from reality, when he stops thinking and believing in a foundation. All of humanity is alienated when too much trust is placed in merely human projects, ideologies, and false utopias… It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God.” “It is clear that human beings alone cannot save themselves. Their innate error is precisely that they want to do this by themselves. We can only be saved—that is, be free and true— when we stop wanting to be God and when we renounce the madness of autonomy and selfsufficiency. We can only be saved—that is, become ourselves—when we engage in the proper relationship. But our interpersonal relationships occur in the context of our utter creatureliness, and it is there that the damage lies. Since the relationship with creation has been damaged, only the Creator himself can be our savior. We can be saved only when he from whom we have cut ourselves off takes the initiative with us and stretches out his hand to us. Only being loved is being saved, and only God’s love can purify damaged human love and radically reestablish the network of relationships that have suffered from alienation.” “How can we distinguish God's voice from among the thousands of voices we hear each day in our world. I would say: God speaks with us in many different ways. He speaks through others, through friends, parents, pastors, priests. Here, the priests to whom you are entrusted, who are guiding you. He speaks by means of the events in our life, in which we are able to discern God's touch; he speaks also through nature, creation, and he speaks, naturally and above all, through his Word, in Sacred Scripture, read in the communion of the Church and read personally in conversation with God. It is important to read Sacred Scripture in a very personal way, and really, as St. Paul says, not as a human word or a document from the past as we read Homer or Virgil, but as God's Word which is ever timely and speaks to me.”

7. Other Considerations

Whenever we think we have God figured out we can be sure we’re in trouble. Joshua presumed that because Eldad and Medad were not present in the gathering with the seventy elders that it was not proper for “some of the spirit that was on Moses” to come to rest on them and to empower them to prophesy in the camp where they were. Similarly, John objects to the “someone driving out demons” in Jesus’ name because “he does not follow us.” Jesus commands: “Do not prevent him.” We cannot predetermine or define the magnanimous and unimagined ways that God opts to act in our lives. Faith is not about prescribing or constricting the way that God operates, but rather about being totally given over to divine providence. In this regard, as Pope Benedict XVI stresses, “the slavery of philautia, the slavery of self-conceit and self-containment,” stands as a serious temptation for us. This is what incites St. James in today’s letter. No matter how well-off we may consider ourselves to be, it is delusional to think that we have what it takes to “store up treasure for the last days.” The second half of the Gospel makes clear how easily we become inured to whatever

“causes us to sin”, especially in the area of self-sufficiency; we readily accept it as we would parts of our own body. That is why the Lord resorts to the radically graphic images of amputation. The self of our own conceiving and making is the one that causes us to sin. Christian self-donation is called for that exercises constant vigilance of the littlest details of reality, decisiveness in severing whatever fails to conform to Christ, and confidence that such self-abnegation is constitutive of our true happiness. If we do not take action in purifying our lives, our flesh, then the “corrosion” that we court will ultimately “devour our flesh like a fire.” Yet, that does not doom us to an existence deprived of feet, hands, or eyes. Christ responds to our total gift of self by giving us the total gift of himself in the Eucharist. Recommended Resources Benedict XVI, Pope. Benedictus. Yonkers: Magnificat, 2006. Biblia Clerus: http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerus/index_eng.html Cameron, Peter John. To Praise, To Bless, To Preach—Cycle B. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 1998. Hahn, Scott: http://www.salvationhistory.com/library/scripture/churchandbible/homilyhelps/homilyhelps.cfm. Martin, Francis: http://www.hasnehmedia.com/homilies.shtml

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