Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, (B), September 30th, 2018:
By Father Scott Karnik
Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19:8,10,12-13,14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43,45, 47-48
Today’s readings suggest a common theme of uniqueness of leadership in God’s Church. To “lead” is “to guide on a way, especially by going in advance.” The leadership demands strain Moses and he asks to die. He doesn’t ask for help. God ignores Moses melodrama. God tells Moses to assemble 70 elders at the tent of meeting. Yahweh will take some of the spirit that rests on Moses and give it to the elders in order to share the burden. So Moses does and Yahweh does. But what happens is the 70 elders prophesy. That is important. They can prophesy. But Moses ‘s leadership position is unique. Only Moses can bear the burden of responsibility of communicating Yahweh’s word to the Israelites and leading the Israelites safely into the Promised Land. Those two responsibilities are unique to Moses. Eldad and Medad prophesy too. Moses approves God’s distribution of spirit. Moses is not concerned with any loss of prestige. He is concerned about the good of the Israelites. God’s prophetic gift is not restricted to any class. Moses excellent character is displayed in this story. Read Numbers 11 and Numbers 12. You will see God further defining the uniqueness of Moses’s leadership.
St. James writes about the unique leadership of those who are rich. St. James extends the woe oracles Jesus pronounced on the rich and well-fed. The last stage of time exists now. Jesus Christ is enthroned at God’s right hand with victory and dominion. The great reversal of values is underway. The earthly values in this mortal world are being devalued right now as we speak. Abortion is one of them. Abortion will die a mortal death and the sooner, the better. The values of this mortal world deceive. St. James says the ones who are most susceptible to this deception are the rich. The rich look to these values for security. But these worldly values are subject to time, just as we are. The rich prefer to see their worldly wealth decay rather than use it to help the poor. They believe the present, sinful world will continue forever. They are so comfortable now that they refuse to believe that Jesus is coming again to judge this sinful world. Their hard-heartedness will be their ruin. St. James then accuses the rich of his time of unscrupulous selfishness. They would not pay the poor laborers at the end of the day. So therefore, they went hungry, along with their families. St. James also accuses the rich of not helping the poor secure their rights. And they fail to understand that God takes the part of the oppressed. This is especially true if the oppressed entrust their well-being completely to Jesus and live like Him. This crime of withholding wages from workers is so serious that it cries out to God for redress, just like murder does, just like sodomy does. Those who surrender to worldly pleasures and power might be or might become unscrupulous. They presume to live as they please with apparent impunity. But in God’s eyes they are fools and their sentence has already been passed on them. Now that Jesus Christ has been glorified, God’s judgment has been pronounced in principle. St. James condemns the rich for their injustice, not their wealth.
Jesus speaks of that same uniqueness of leadership in His gospel reading today. Jesus warns those who would scandalize the little ones who believe in Him. The person or persons who scandalize the little ones to that extent will endure the most severe punishment at God’s judgment. They will be sunk into the sea. They will be doomed if they do not repent, confess their sins, and do penance. The occasions of sin Jesus talks about are moral and originate inside the person. That person must overcome them at the root, where they are cut off, in order to avoid damnation. To scandalize someone by engaging in such sin means to sin and to jeopardize the man who is scandalized. It is better to die than to rob a man of his faith. Think about that in today’s scandalous revelations in our Church. Those people are sentenced already and their only escape is to repent, confess their sins, and do penance. But remember that we, the little ones, can scandalize too. We are not morally superior to anyone. The same moral standards that apply to Church leaders apply to us too.
The goal of man’s existence is eternal life. This brings him salvation, the kingdom of God. To fail to enter into life and to not share in God’s eternal kingdom means to miss the goal that God Himself has set for mankind. It is the most terrible lot that can befall us. A man’s earthly life has been made meaningless and when he dies, he will be meaningless forever. It is an eternal death, a destruction of his humanity which God designed for eternal life because He loves us that much. Jesus says it is better to cut off a body part than to scandalize another human being and be thrown into hell.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016