Sunday, September 27, 2009

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear All,

Our First Reading this week from the fourth book of Hebrew Bible (aka Christian Old Testament), the Pentateuch (aka Torah), is an account of the journey from Sinai to Moab (before crossing the Jordan River to the Promised Land). It is called Book of Numbers because Moses counts more than 600 Thousand Israelites fit to bear arms (military service). One of the themes of this week’s readings is about partisan religion. Eldad and Medad were not in the tent when the Spirit of God came upon the seventy elders. Eldad and Medad weren’t there, but they still received the Spirit and began to prophesize. “Stop them,” Joshua told Moses, “Why?” asked Moses. “Would that God’s Spirit come upon all the people.”

In this week’s Gospel according to Mark it is the only time the Apostle John speaks on his own. He calls Jesus’ attention to someone who is casting out demons in his name and how the disciples had tried to stop him. John more or less wants Jesus to stop this man because the disciples couldn’t manage it by themselves. But John forgets that Jesus’ first concern is for as many people as possible to hear the words of salvation and to experience the liberation this brings. John was really surprised when Jesus welcomes this anonymous exorcist and tells the disciples not to stop him. Anyone who is not against us is for us.

Last Sunday I was in Zurich, Switzerland, looking for a catholic church to attend Mass. The reception of the hotel told me that a few blocks away the Christian Catholic Church had service at 9:30 on Sunday morning. The service had a few nuances that were different from what I was used to, but I thought it must be geographic dissimilarities. During the Liturgy of the word, however, I realized that the Readings (about which I had written my reflections the evening before) were not the ones of the Roman cycle. I learned that the Christian Catholic Church separated from Rome in 1870 after Vatican I, because of some dogmatic differences. I was reminded that all religions have a tendency

to claim exclusive control of the avenues of salvation. But God is surely free to work outside of our familiar religious structures. This doesn't mean that such structures are unnecessary or unimportant. It does mean that we should work in genuine humility to make our own religious structures as open as possible to the saving power of God. It is profoundly reassuring that right after that experience in Zurich I get to read Numbers and Mark telling us that anyone who is not against God is for God.

The second theme of today is about ending up in hell for taking unfair advantage of others. The Letter of James is quite explicit in modern day advantage taking, like withholding wages, storing excessively for the last days, etc. In Mark’s Gospel it is quite interesting to note that on the one hand the Lord seems very open and tolerant and yet right after stating “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ” …. “will surely not lose his reward”, Jesus seems very severe and harsh. Christ takes this very seriously: He does not want his disciples to be obstacles to anyone’s faith. The task of a disciple is to bring people into the Kingdom and not cause them to be lost. It is a scandal to take advantage of vulnerable people who can so easily be exploited when they should be protected and assisted. This is where real sinfulness lies and the punishment is swift and severe. Gehenna was the place where Jerusalem's trash was deposited. It was usually smoldering and was infested by all sorts of pests and parasites. It was certainly not where one would hope to end up.

Let us stay away from partisan religion and let us help those who are in need, are two clear messages of today’s Readings, whose complete text can be found at

With God’s Love and Blessings,


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1 comment:

  1. Rainer ... sehr interessant, das habe ich nicht gewusst. Ich habe da mal nachgeschlagen und die folgende Eintragung gefunden:

    Lese das alles mal durch.

    Man lernt halt nie aus :--))