26th September 2021

Lectern at St. Edward's Church

Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

(Mk 9, 38-43. 45. 47-48)

As every Sunday, also today Jesus wants to invite us to pause for a moment in our constantly busy lives, and to reflect on the Word of God which inspires us and gives us a very valuable lesson, especially for the coming weeks and months ahead. As you may have noticed, both the first reading, and especially the Gospel contain a very similar message. Both of today’s readings are about jealousy and this is what I want to focus on today. First, in the Book of Numbers we heard about Joshua who asked Moses to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying, for reasons described in this reading. Look – he said – Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp… My Lord Moses, stop them! Then Moses said to him in reply: Are you jealous on my account? If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!

As we remember, something very similar happened in today’s Gospel. Saint John, one of the Apostles said to Jesus: Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name, and because he was not one of us, we tried to stop him. As we heard, Jesus answered John with something that I think was difficult for John to understand at this stage. You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.

I think it may be similar in our lives. Perhaps we too, like Joshua or John, are jealous and would like to stop other people from doing good works just because they are not one of us. Or perhaps we would like to change other people to be exactly like we are in our faith, in our piety, in our way of following Jesus. Maybe at times it seems to us that only we – as practicing Catholics – are very special, that we know everything, that only we are able do good works, that only we – as followers of Jesus – can be decent, honest, generous, kind, helpful and sensitive. Today Jesus wants to tell us something very important: Everyone can discover God’s gifts within himself. Everyone can be a good and honest person, and what’s more, everyone can work miracles in the name of Jesus, regardless of his faith and how strong his relationship with Jesus is. I think today Jesus wants to encourage us to be more open, more tolerant and more respectful towards all those people who are different from us. He wants to invite us to see and appreciate so many of God’s gifts, so many good works in all those people who are not like us in terms of our relationship with Jesus and our piety.

What is the most important message that Jesus wanted to convey to John in this passage? He said to him more or less: You are very privileged, John because you are very close to me, you are one of us, you are one of the Apostles, and you should be very proud of it. But you need to remember, and I think each of us needs to remember what Jesus said a little further on in the same gospel. No one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us. Moreover, Jesus says to him and to us all: Never get frustrated and jealous – as disciples of Jesus – and always remember what He said further on in the same conversation with John: Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will not lose his reward.

Not everyone is an Apostle like the twelve, like John, Peter, Andrew or the others; not everyone is a bishop, priest like Fr Ebin and myself or a religious sister, not everyone is a Catholic, not everyone is even a Christian like all of us here, and similarly not everyone is a parishioner of Saint Edward’s. Not everyone prays as often and in the same way as we do, but each of us has been called to be a good and honest person, to do good works, to help others, to support the needy, to fight evil, cast out devils and do great signs and wonders in the name of God. Let us ask Jesus for a deeper understanding of today’s Gospel and this beautiful and profound lesson that encourages us to avoid frustration and jealousy and focus more on what is beautiful and noble in our brothers and sisters who, although may not have as close a relationship with Jesus as we have, but they can still inspire us and encourage us to do good works in the name of the Lord.

Fr Gregory