26TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON SEPTEMBER 26, 2021 (R. 1: Numbers 11: 25- 29; Psalm 19: 8, 10, 12- 14; R. 2: James 5: 1- 6; Gospel: Mark 9: 38- 43, 45, 47- 48)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
A man and his wife were at home one Sunday evening when a neighbor came to ask for the man’s verdict on an argument he had with his friend. After the neighbor was done narrating his side of the story, the man said to him, “You are very correct!” and he left. A few minutes later, the neighbor’s friend came and wanted the man to give his verdict on the same argument. He narrated the story from his own point of view, and the man said to him, “You are very correct!” After the visitor left, the man’s wife who had been eavesdropping from the kitchen came to her husband and said, “Honey, what is going on here? The first man told you his side of the story, you said to him, ‘You are very correct!’ The second man came and said his own side of the story, which was contrary to the first and you also said to him, ‘You are very correct!’ Please, tell me, what is your stand here?” The man turned to his wife and said, “You are also very correct!”
The first reading and the gospel passage point to the fact that no one can put God in a box. The Spirit of God flows where and how He wants; and we can only have peace if we let God be God. In the First Reading, Moses was becoming frustrated by the children of Israel whom he was leading to the Promised Land. He complained to God and God gave him the instruction to gather seventy men on whom God would put some of the spirit from Moses that they may help Moses bear the burden of Israel. On the appointed day, while they were gathered for their inauguration, two of them remained in the camp. The Lord took some of the spirit that was on Moses and gave to the gathered men and they prophesied. Surprisingly, the two elders, Eldad and Medad, who were absent also began to prophesy. A young man found this out and came to report to Moses, and he was supported by Joshua. Contrary to their expectation, not only did Moses approve of them prophesying, but he wished everybody could prophesy. The more the merrier! Let God be God so you may have peace!
In the Gospel passage, it seems John had not read today’s First Reading. He wanted to curtail the workings of God. He reported to Jesus that a man who was not in their group was caught casting out demons in the name of Jesus and they (the apostles) tried to prevent him. Contrary to their expectation, Jesus approved of the man, and he acknowledged the workings of God in him even though he was not in their group. Let God be God so you may have peace!
There is enough space in the sky for any bird that wants to fly. There is enough space in the ocean for any fish that wants to swim. According to William Barclay “Truth is bigger than any man’s grasp of it. No man can possibly grasp all truth.” From these readings, those of us who are ordained are cautioned to be humble enough to realize the fact that God also performs great deeds through the lay faithful. We do not keep the treasury of all knowledge and all holiness. For us as Catholics, we are blessed to have the complete bible and the seven sacraments; God has given us all we need for salvation, but God is not bound by the Catholic Church, He also works in our separated brethren. For us as Christians, it is true that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that no one can go to heaven except through Jesus. But remember that Jesus also says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this flock.” So do not be scandalized if a non-Christian gets a special place in heaven. There are also elements of truth in other religions. Let God be God so you may have peace!
There is something good even in the bad. One of my professors in the seminary once said that there is something good we can learn even from the devil. When asked, he went on to explain that we can learn the virtue of persistence/perseverance from the devil. According to him, when many Christians pray for a particular intention more than twice without getting an immediate reply from God, they give up. When some Catholics confess a particular sin more than once and they see themselves falling back to the same sin, they stop trying. Their adage becomes either “If you can’t beat them, join them”, or “He that is down fears no fall.”
According to my professor, that is not usually the case with the devil. The devil is very persistent. He gave an example with the devil’s persistence in discouraging Jesus from going to the cross. There were the three recorded temptations after Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights. After failing, the devil came back again through the mouth of Peter to discourage Jesus from going to the cross, but Jesus sent him to his rightful position, “Get behind me, Satan!” The devil came back after re-strategizing to confuse Jesus while he was praying at Gethsemane. Jesus almost bought into that and prayed that the cup might pass him by, but he got back on track when he added, “Father…not my will but your will be done.” Ordinarily, one would have thought that the devil should have given up at this point. But even when Jesus was already on the cross, the devil came again through the mouth of one of the thieves, “If you are the son of God, come down from the cross and save us as well.” Persistence is what we can learn from the devil. In our own case, it is not persistence in doing evil, but persistence in avoiding evil and doing good.
It is to our own advantage if we don’t rush into condemning people, but spend time to see what good we can take from them. If there is good even in the bad; why not spend more time and energy in appreciating the good in your parent, your husband, your wife, your child, your sibling and your neighbor, no matter what their weaknesses may be! Remember that there is always a “sense” in every “nonsense”. Someone recently said, “Never laugh at the choices your wife makes because, you are one of them.” Pierre Teilhard De Chardin also said, “By virtue of creation, and still more the incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see,” that is to say, “Everything is holy to the eyes that are holy.”