26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
17th Sunday After Pentecost
October 1, 2006
Reflections on the Readings by Dennis Hankins
Readings: Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19:8-14
James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-48
Theme: The Generosity of God
The generosity of God creates in us an unselfish heart.
It should strike us that there is nothing ordinary about Ordinary Time. This season of the church, in its readings, reminds us of the great work of God in us and through us. It is in that order. Too often we desire to do the works of God without first allowing God to work in us. The readings today make us ponder anew how generous our God is.
Jesus is serious when he says we should radically remove whatever keeps us from a large and abundant relationship with God. Of course our Lord is not telling us to chop off hands, pluck out eyes or sever our feet from our legs. But the language of our Lord is clear. To be less than wholly the Lord’s is to say there is nothing abundant about abundant life, or nothing eternal about eternal life, or nothing generous about God who has freely given us all things.
Gregory of Nyssa on the Simplicity of Service sees the strength of our testimony in this comment: God never asks his servant to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of his Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnishes to each person according to his will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: “whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.
Our God is the God who knows the number of hairs on our head and takes note of each sparrow that falls to the ground. The heart of this God who without measure has poured out his Spirit upon us desires communion with our hearts. Those who fatten their own hearts have limited their participation in the goodness of God. Providing for ourselves bigger and better ways to contain our wealth diminishes God and makes us selfish and self serving.
Jesus taught his disciples the extraordinary need to expand and expend themselves. The offensive and neglectful attitude toward others ends in a place called hell, ‘where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ It is Jesus who said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Gregory of Nyssa stated there is a great difference between fire which is quenched and that which cannot be put out. And again from the sainted father, “When a person hears the word “worm,” the analogy must not be misapplied directly from the creature we know to the eternal. For the addition of the phrase ‘that does not die’ suggests the thought that this worm is not simply the creature we know.”
Let us not be afraid to let the Lord open our hearts and give us an abundant entrance into his love. The Holy Trinity is in itself an abyss of love. (From Morning Litany in St. Augustine’s Prayer Book.) It is this love, this generous love that changes our hearts into a fruitful garden of God. And everywhere we see signs of that garden of God flowering in others, we must not be disinterested or envious.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, no one can call you Lord except by the Holy Spirit. No one can claim your Lordship in their lives except by the Holy Spirit. O Lord, only the Holy Spirit can renew the hearts of the faithful. By the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, restore to us dependent creatures the haven of the beautiful garden of God. And there will we commune with Thee as friends. Amen.
St. Augustine in On Baptism, Against the Donatists 7-39 (76) said:
“There may be something catholic outside the Church catholic. The name of Christ could exist outside the congregation of Christ, as in the case of the man casting out devils in Christ’s name. There may by contrast exist pretenses within the church catholic as is unquestionably the case of those “who renounce the world in words and not in deeds,” and yet the pretense is not catholic. So as there may be found in the church catholic something which is not catholic, so there may be found something which is catholic outside the church catholic.”