Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 27, 2009
Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost - Year B
By Dennis Hankins
"Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."
Those who know me, know how devoted I've been and continue to be about the unity of the faith. I firmly believe the Scripture which says there is 'one body and one Spirit,...one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.' (Ephesians 4:4, 5) It is this understanding which shaped my search for this fullness of unity for several years before becoming Catholic.
Let us listen closely to Jesus as he says, "There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us." These are important words for our times, for our day and for the very important work of Ecumenical dialogue.
It is without exaggeration that we can describe the body of Christ as wounded and greatly fractured. However, within the Church is preserved what the Church has always believed at all times and in all places. This is not snobbery or smugness, rather it is the appeal of early Christian teaching by St. Jude, who in his Epistle writes: Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
Today's Gospel calls us to make sure we remain true to this faith. There is no sacrifice too great to be sure we will in the end hear these words: "Well done, good and faithful servant."
The call points to the need to be sacrificial and deliberate. It is better to enter the Kingdom at the bottom of the sea than to cause a little one to sin and miss the life of the Kingdom. It is better to arrive before the Lord with only one hand, or one foot, or even one eye, than to arrive into Gehenna with all of our faculties, where there is unquenchable fire and where the worm does not die.
To follow Jesus is important business and requires an uncompromising effort. Many have given up their life rather than retracting their faith. Recorded in the annals of Church history are both Catholic and Protestant martyrs. I believe when the good Lord looks down upon us he sees 'one body, one faith, one bread.' In his eyes, we who are many are one. We just haven't found the way yet to see ourselves the way he sees us. But we will. And the prayer for Christian unity must always be, as it is every Sunday, the prayer of the Church that has always been, and will always be.
Where can we find the inspiration to continue to love God without reservation and our neighbor unconditionally? From today's Gospel we realize that this is what is at stake. Perhaps the answer is in understanding the impact of Jesus' words then and now. Will we or do we allow a mediocre, anemic faith to creep into our souls? Do we dismiss out of hand the effort of the Master to draw us into deeper and richer fellowship with him? Is all this business about plucking out the wayward eye, or cutting off the offending foot just too extreme? Or is it hyperbole with a purpose? I bet that's it. There is a purpose and meaning to these radical words of the Man from Galilee.
What shall it profit a man to lose his soul and gain the whole world? The price to follow Jesus is great, but look at the crucifix again and say to your soul, "Soul, behold the pearl of great price. Go sell all that you've got to have and to hold in your heart of hearts this great treasure of heaven." Battered, bloodied, bruised, to many there is no beauty in him that they even consider what is happening on that cross. To St. Paul and countless martyrs, who gloried in the cross, they made it their business to know nothing, to preach nothing, to love nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Jesus calls us to a simplicity in this life to effect our salvation and the salvation of our friends and families. Maybe, just maybe it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Perhaps we have some plucking and severing to do, so that we can get closer to Jesus and to what Jesus wants from us, what Jesus wants to do through us. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink and stuff and things, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
If we are to know the fulness of the faith, the Church and Christ's life in us, we've got to be serious about shedding anything or anyone who keeps us from these good things.
With no reservations.
Let us pray: Dear Father of all who love and serve you, have mercy on our divisions. Heal not only the divisions within your Church, but heal us of the things we let divide us from you. Help us to embrace the Son of your love without fear of cost or fear of others. Pour out upon us the same Holy Spirit that fell on the early Church and revive us again. Amen.