Sunday, September 27, 2015

26th Sunday in Ordinary time - Cut It Out!

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Today's readings are about envying others who do things in God's name and "cutting" out what may send us to hell.

In the first reading we read of God coming down in a cloud and speaking to Moses.  We are told that God takes some of the spirit that was on Moses and gives it to seventy elders.  When He did this, those elders began to prophesy.  Two of the men, Eldad and Medad were not present but still received this spirit.  They too began to prophesy.  Joshua then tells Moses to stop them. Moses replies, "Are you jealous for my sake?  Would that all people of the Lord were prophets!  Would that the Lord might bestow His spirit on them all!"  He says this because Joshua felt that there was a sort of competition going on. To him, Moses should have been the only one prophesying.  However, Moses says that it would be better if all the people were prophets for the Lord and that each had His spirit. This ties in with today's Gospel.  We must not be envious of others nor prevent others from spreading God's word (Galatians 5:26). God gives to each of us gifts which bring joy to us and others as we read in the Psalm today.

The responsorial Psalm tells us that God's law is perfect and refreshes the soul.  Every decree from God is trustworthy.  The fear of the Lord or respect for Him is pure and endures forever.  As servants of God we must be careful with God's laws and follow them.  We must not let sin rule over us and must be blameless and innocent, free of sin (Matthew 5:48).  This means living unattached to things of this world like the second reading tells us.

We must not be like those rich people who whine and complain when they lose money or something does not go their way.  Material things should not define us (Hebrews 13:5).  They should not be relied upon unless for necessity (IE food etc).  So many people buy expensive cars, homes, clothing etc believing these will bring them status or joy.  It never ceases to amaze me how many rich people, especially singers, athletes and actors buy expensive mansions and then sell them within three to five years.  They sell them because they are expensive to upkeep.  Then when you add property taxes, it can get even more hairy to keep a mansion.
This is why we must not story up treasures that we clearly cannot take with us when we pass on (Luke 12:33, (Matthew 6:19-21).

The reading tells us, "Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud."  This phrase speaks well to what Pope Francis has been telling us, especially during his visit to the United States.  Unfortunately, some so-called "conservatives" have criticized him calling him a Marxist. He is no such thing. What he has reminded us is that greed is evil (Proverbs 11:28,Luke 12:15) . Capitalism is not a perfect system for all and is not a perfect system period.  Many people are left out of the "trickle-down economics" and the capitalist process.  There is something wrong when less that one percent hold almost all of the world's wealth.  Our Holy Father is calling attention to this; not to destroy capitalism, but to make it better and fair for all so that it focuses on the common good and not just the bank accounts of a few. In the medical field, notice how lately (past 50 years) we find treatments but no cures.  This is not a coincidence. A "cure" is not big business as it will only bring in profits once.  However, a treatment will bring profits all the time because they occur more than once. This is why the Pope speaks strongly against the abuse of capitalism. The things of this world will not last (Matthew 24:35).  We can live in luxury and pleasure  fattening ourselves up, but in the end, all of that stays here while our bodies rot in the grave (Matthew 6:20). We must cut out what is evil in our lives as the Gospel tells us.

In the Gospel, we see a similar scenario as in the first reading with Moses.  John tells Jesus that he saw someone driving our demons in His name and that they tried to stop him because the man was not part of the disciples.  Jesus' reply is interesting. He does not say, "Good."  Instead, He says, "Do not prevent him.  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 ifs for us."  This speaks volumes even today where in many parishes there is sometimes a competition going on among the laity, among the clergy and even among both together. How many times have we become envious of others and their work in the Church?  I myself have been targeted at parishes and social media for my work; usually from "traditionalists" or "liberals."  These have interjected during my work with atheists and have tried to discredit me so that atheists would ignore me.  It brings up the question: who are they following, Christ or Satan?  Why impede the conversion of atheists with slander? They in their delusional understanding of the faith believe that only they truly profess and witness to the Catholic faith.  These are the postmodern Pharisees.  

Even outside of the Church, some of us may be bothered when we see "pastors" and others doing things in Jesus' name. We call them heretics and other bad things. This is wrong.  While these people are separated from Christ's true Church, they are still following Christ.  Jesus said He had sheep in other folds that still hear His name and will come join the one fold (John 10:16).  This is why ecumenism is important. Those who are against ecumenism and believe that we are a "militant church" that is at war with the world do not understand Christ nor Catholicism.  The term "militant Church" does not mean that we fight our brothers and sisters who are not Catholic.  We are not called to be Cain killing Abel in the world, so to speak.  It means that we are in a fight for our lives against the powers that be in this world that fool us into thinking money, power, the flesh etc are what bring eudaimonia or joy that never ceases (Ephesians 6:12). The Pope is not a heretic for praying with people of other faiths or for visiting a Protestant worship location or Mosque.

These people, while having different doctrines are worshiping the same God.  There is only ONE God up there listening to His children (1 Corinthians 8:6).  Some of our ancestors in our respective cultures may have named Him using different titles, or may have described Him based on culture, but that does not change the fact that there is only One God, One Creator. Lastly, we must protect our children.  The Holy Father told us at the World Meeting of Families that we must protect children who are our hope and future.  Jesus says, "whoever causes one of the 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."  These are strong words from Christ. They reflect how serious He was about protecting the little ones.  Unfortunately, some in our Church have offended these little ones in awful and evil ways. We must pray for all those involved, including the perpetrator.

If a child comes to us telling us of abuse, we must immediately report it to the police.  It is not our job to determine if kids are lying or not.  As the saying goes, "better safe than sorry."  All men have fallen short of God's grace, including the clergy (Romans 3:23). So we must not believe like in the past that priests cannot do any harm. We all have the defect found in the effects of original sin in us.  Because of this, we are predisposed to do all kinds of crazy and evil things (Colossians 3:5).  If you do not believe this, just turn on the news. You will hear all kinds of stories of beheading, rape, throwing babies in toilets, selling fetal parts, incest, parades with people having sex, States legalizing drug use, parents punching a girl to death and dumping her body on a beach, hashtags on Twitter celebrating abortion, I can go on and on, but you get the point.  We live in a beautiful world with ugly behaviors  in it.  This is why Christ tells us to "cut it out." He says that "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.  It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna."

Christ here is not saying to literally cut body parts off.  He is speaking metaphorically. Notice how He uses parts of the body that are essential to living but do not end life if they go missing. Jesus does not say to take out your heart or brain and throw them away because these organs are extremely vital to maintaining existence in the physical body.  We can lose hands, feet and eyes and still adapt to life but will face hardships of course.  The idea behind these words of Christ is to cut out what in our lives is keeping us in sin. We must go and sin no more (John 8:11).  Sin is like a cancer that keeps growing unless we kill it off or remove it. The more we sin, the more insensitive we become until we eventually set faith aside altogether (Ephesians 4:17-19). It is a cancer of the soul that effects the body and others around us (Micah 6:13, 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).  So let us pray for one another and not be envious of others who preach Christ and have that Spirit of God in them. Let us protect our children and cut out what is keeping us from God.  May Jesus Christ be praised.


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