26th Sunday in Ordinary Time. September 30, 2018.
Num 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43,45,47-48
Prophets after Christ’s own heart
I met a prophet some years ago and it was not a bible preacher or missionary or anything like that. It was a poor man who came looking for work in our community. He told me he chose to quit his only job immediately because he was being pressured by a female co-worker to have intimate relationships with her. She was making his workplace extremely toxic to this family man and there was no way he could get her to cease her unwanted advances towards him. He said that he would rather quit his only job and have his large family suffer the consequences than be well-paid but living with a troubled conscience from being unfaithful to his wife and His commitment to Christ.
What a powerful example he is to each of us of fidelity to God? He reminded me that God constantly raises up and multiplies His prophets, especially in times of widespread sin and troubles in the world. God gives these prophets all they need to hear, live, and speak His word to His people always and everywhere for His sake no matter what it would cost them.
The First Reading is a time of great upheaval and rebellion among the liberated Israelites. They “complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortune.” They craved for the food of slaves that they ate in Egypt to the point that they were disgusted with the manna with which God was feeding them, “Oh that we had meat to eat…There is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” They longed for the food of slaves and even showed their disdain for their liberation.
God responded to all these by raising prophets who would be and act like Moses, “Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the Lord bestowed it on the seventy elders.” Even Eldad and Medad, who were not in the gathering, received the spirit of Moses and began to prophesy in the distant camp. Moses refused to stop them but revealed God’s desire to have us all become like prophets, “Would that all the people of the Lord are prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow His spirit on them all.”
This desire of the Father that we all become prophets is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the New Moses and the Eternal Prophet. Jesus Christ is the one who forever hears, lives, and speaks God’s words to us for the sake of the Father even if it cost Him His life, “In ancient times God in various ways to our Fathers through the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us through His Son.”(Heb 1:1) Jesus Himself attested, “My teaching is not my own but that of the One who sent me.”(Jn 7:16) He sacrificed His life so that we could live in the truth as God’s beloved children, “And when I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.”(Jn 12:32) As in the case of Moses with the Israelites, God has also bestowed on us the same Spirit of Jesus so that we too can be prophets with and like Jesus.
Jesus in today’s Gospel does not allow John to prevent the man who expels demons in Jesus’ name but invites us to become His prophets in His name through our words and actions, “There is no one who does a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” This is an emphatic invitation to us to act and live the life of a prophet first and foremost before we can speak prophetic words to others. We have no business as prophets preaching that which we just refuse to practice.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are living in days when the sense of sin seems all but completely lost and upheavals abound even in the Church. What is God doing? He is multiplying His faithful prophets by sending into our hearts the Spirit of His Son. But how ready and willing are we to abandon our comfort-zones and worldly profits and become prophets after the heart of Jesus?
Let us examine how prophetic our Christian life is: First, are we so united with Christ like the branches to the vine and participating in His love and grace so deeply that we receive and speak His words always and live just like He did? Secondly, do we give good examples to others of Christian living first before we give good advice or teaching to them? Thirdly, are we willing to sacrifice anything dear to us so as to avoid giving scandal to others but to bring them to know and love God more? Does this saying of Jesus impact us in any way: “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.”
The Church is reeling from a lingering clergy sexual abuse scandal and hierarchical cover-ups that have reached even to the papacy. Priests, bishops, and cardinals, guilty or complicit in these crimes are being advanced to prominent positions in the Church. In an unprecedented deceit, the scandal is being blamed on clericalism and not homosexuality. Priests and bishops are having a field day boldly rejecting the scriptural and traditional teaching of the Church. At the same time, we are gathering the youth in a synod this week on the topic, “Young people, the faith and vocational discernment.”
There is no problem with listening to the youth but what are we going to teach them about discernment when we are dismissive of the objective and unchanging moral norms that should guide authentic discernment in healthy sexuality? Have we first of all listened to the voice of the Good Shepherd regarding healthy sexuality or are we simply going to repeat our warped opinions about homosexuality? Are we going to confirm them in the depraved sexuality that they have learned from the secular culture and which we have sadly began to condone and promote in the Church? Haven’t we contributed to their moral decadence by our own failures and obstinacy? Do we even believe in the call to chastity for all Christians and the exclusive reservation of sexual intercourse to a man and woman in married love? Have we been bold enough to mirror to the youth the courage of Christ who spoke truth to those who crucified Him and even forgave them on the cross? How long are we going to give good advice about things that we do not even believe in or want to practice? How can we be prophets to them when we are not ready to sacrifice anything to help them avoid evil of the culture of death and to lead them to know and love God more? As long as questions like these are not honestly answered, we are nothing close to the Christ-like prophets we are called to be.
One good lesson that can be drawn from this sexual abuse scandal and hierarchical cover-up is that we are all called and equipped by God to be Christ-like prophets today by virtue of holy baptism when we received His indwelling Spirit. Gone are the days when we looked exclusively to the ordained clergy as anointed prophets, unquestioningly accepting everything that they teach. Recent events indicate that many of these clergy have little or no supernatural faith in what Christ teaches in His Church today. With a firm faith in the unchanging teachings of the faith, let us also unite ourselves and adhere to Christ more than ever as St. John invites us to do:
“I write this to you about those who would deceive you: but the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you; as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie; just as it has taught you, abide in Him.(1Jn 2:26-27)
These are times of fierce struggle with the forces of darkness that seek to deceive us on the authentic Catholic faith and morals. The Church does not need those who will just follow the crowd sheepishly, mouthing the mantras of the secular world. We do not need gossip mongers and those who choose to keep silent in the face of evils. What we need are prophets from the all the vocations in the Church – laity, religious, priestly and single consecrated – who would heed God’s invitation to be prophets after the heart of His Son, Jesus Christ, and give good examples and speak the truth in our times.
We don’t need to be sinless to be His prophets today; we only need to unite ourselves inseparably to Him so that we strive to share more deeply in His own holiness and participate in that Spirit of His that enables us to reflect the power of His grace and the beauty of His truth to others. As we share deeply in His Spirit through this Eucharist, what are we ready to sacrifice so that God can make us His prophets after His Son’s heart in these our times of sin and upheavals?
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!