Tuesday, November 23, 2021 at 5:34 PM
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Homily, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parish Picnic and Priesthood Sunday

26th Sunday of the Year B and Picinic Day

Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Competitiveness is cultivated and encouraged in many fields. We see it in sports, in business, in the academic field and in many other areas of life.  Some people even tend to divide the world into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.  It is interesting therefore to see the issue of competitiveness addressed in both, the first and the third reading today.

In the first reading, the two elders, Eldad and Medad, did not attend the meeting that Moses had called. But then the Spirit fell, not only on those who attended the meeting, but on everybody including those two who had absented themselves. Moses’ assistant, Joshua, thought it was unfair that people who had not bothered to attend the meeting should get the same benefits as those who had attended. These, after all, should be the winners and the other two the losers. Joshua believed that those who attended the meeting should now be the front runners in the race for God’s gifts, with Eldad and Medad moved to the background. So, he petitioned Moses to take away their gift of the Spirit. But Moses had a very different attitude. He was happy the two had received the Spirit too and wished that even more of the people had received it. Joshua’s competitive attitude got no support.

We can see the same issue in the gospel. This time, it is John who is competing. He sees someone driving out demons in Jesus’ name, and he tells him to stop because the man is not a ‘card-carrying member’ of Jesus’ group. He has not been authenticated, recognized and approved by the disciples. The disciples are resentful because another, not in the company of Jesus, also has the gift of healing.  And John, so sure that he has the right to stop the man, comes up to Jesus and tells him about it, expecting that Jesus would give him a word of approval. But, as had happened so many times before, Jesus has a very different attitude. He does not see this man as a competitor or as undermining his ministry. On the contrary, he sees him as cooperating with it. He tells John not to stop such people, because they are all on the same side. Jesus is not concerned about who ‘belong’ or ‘not’, but rather about whether what they do is consistent with his saving mission.

What might these stories say to us?  We recognize, of course, that competitiveness is not all bad. It can stimulate people to use their initiative, and personal resources to the fullest extent. When people compete, they can become more aware of their gifts and potential. But when competitiveness develops into a way of life, it becomes destructive. When we judge our own value by comparing ourselves with others, we are in danger of falling into a bottomless pit that leads to a very poor estimation of ourselves. We need to concentrate on using the gifts and talents that God has given us to the best of our ability. And if we do that, we will feel good about ourselves and about who we are. What Jesus is saying to us is that it is cooperation not competition that builds God’s kingdom. We are laborers in the vineyard, not managers who question or judge the worthiness of our fellow workers.  God wants us to acknowledge and champion goodness in whomever it resides. God wants us to trust and believe that the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in every person open to God’s grace. God wants us to find things in common to celebrate, and not get fixated on differences that become unnecessary obstacles.  God wants us to respect the spiritual journeys of everyone --- those who are on the exact same journey as us, and those trying to find meaning in life. The kingdom of God arises in our midst when people develop their talents fully for the good of all and as an act of praise to the Lord.!

Dear friends, it is Parish Picnic weekend with a theme:  Belong Believe Become. Everyone needs a place to Belong, Believe and Become.

Believe: God designed each of us for a purpose, and we cannot know that purpose without knowing Him. Believing starts with a simple recognition that a separation exists between us and God which was Nobody is an Island created by sin. God came to earth in Jesus Christ to obliterate that separation and died for us on the cross. Through faith in Him, we are born again, and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Belong: We cannot fully know ourselves apart from community. And St Paul uses the analogy of a human body to describe how believers in Jesus depend on one another (1 Cor. 12:18–26). In order for the body to be healthy, every part must be operating effectively and in harmony with all the other parts. This is the principle of interdependency.

Become: Once you have begun your relationship with Jesus and joined a family of fellow believers, the next step is to set your heart on becoming the person God created you to be. The process of becoming requires intentionality and dedication.

When we belong, believe and become as a Parish - we will embrace the unbeliever and those searching, nurture the believers and equip more disciples for mission. Please continue to share your God-given gifts and talents with the community. Whatever you are involved in, whether to a ministry or coming to mass, invite someone. I would like to thank you for your continued prayers for all the priests on this Priesthood Sunday.

 

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