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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 30, 2012
Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-48

            Similar disputes arise in the Book of Numbers and Mark’s Gospel. Joshua, the longtime aide of Moses, is miffed because Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp and he wants them to stop. These two men are not in the prescribed gathering when the spirit of God descends on those chosen by Moses, but they receive a share in the spirit just the same. The spirit does not conform to their ideas. Moses prudently responds to Joshua, “Would that all be prophets? Would that the Lord bestow his spirit on them all.” Moses sees that Eldad and Medad are taking responsibility for their faith and are acting with good stewardship.

            In the Gospel, John brings up the same concern. He and others see another person driving out demons in the name of Jesus and they try to stop him to no avail. This other man is not initiated into discipleship in the same way as they have been and they feel their authority is usurped. Belonging to a group means that one has power to include and set parameters for membership or to exclude and set conditions for joining an enterprise. The disciple John is perplexed because he knows the man is doing what is good and right, but he is still “the other.” Jesus replies, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” He views the larger strategy in terms of building up the kingdom of God rather than being concerned for his own authority.

            A major question raised by these readings is, “how well do we let other people be themselves?” It is good for us to learn to let ‘the other be other’ and it is not easy. It is natural for us to make others extensions of ourselves. In fact, we often want to control another person’s behavior to such a degree that we deprive them of their essential independence. For instance, if we delegate a task to someone, we are annoyed if the other person does not do it as we would or on our same schedule. We want the person to value the task as highly as we do and we want it done according to our methods because it has worked well for us before.

            This is not a healthy way to proceed. Jesus tells us in the second paragraph of the Gospel that we are not to cause another person to sin. Sin is caused by the attitudes we hold towards others. It is a failure to even bother to love. No one likes to feel manipulated, criticized, and fixed. When we narcissistically make someone conform to our thoughts and identity, we generate ill will and negative responses towards us. We cause the person to get angry with us because we heap impossible expectations upon them. In other words, we cause them to sin.

We begin to succeed when we allow others the creative freedom to carry out their responsibility as they see it. We have to let them communicate their visions and schemes to us while we listen anew. We can learn to credit the other person’s abilities and give them rewards and compliments. We can celebrate the talents others bring to the enterprise, if we are courageous enough to respect the other person’s good intentions. By helping others reach their potential, we quicken the way to meeting our own. We have to understand that we are mostly on the same page with one another; our task is to step back and let the good actions unfold.

            Joshua and John had to step out of the way and allow something greater to play out. As hard as we try to define boundaries, the spirit is going to act without regard of our plans and expectations. The church realizes it must do this, but we cannot criticize the church when we have our personal work to do. Find a way this week of respecting another person’s autonomy and story by letting the person truly be a completely other person made up of his or her own life experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Sincerely ask them about their lives and you will find you will authentically care for them with great ease.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: The church turns to the Book of Job to describe the ways of God in the midst of great suffering. Satan appears to God with other angels and asks God to put the righteous Job to the test. If great calamity comes his way, he will surely blaspheme the Lord. God agrees to the test, but declares that while everything around Job can be destroyed, no harm is to come to Job. His livelihood is destroyed; four of his children are killed in a freak accident. Job laments his suffering and questions why he was born in the face of such a horrible life. Job speaks to his friends about the cause of his misfortune in the face of God’s wisdom. Job will not put God to the test. He questions God’s mysterious ways and he knows deeply that his vindicator lives. God will come to his aid. After Job’s many complaints, God addresses him forcefully. Job is quieted in the face of God’s omnipotent knowledge. Job repents in defeat. He will never know the reasons why a just, innocent person suffers before an all-knowing, all-powerful God. As the days go on, Job’s fortune is restored.

Gospel:  As Jesus is teaching his friends how to be the best servant-disciple, he picks us a child and instructs the disciple on how to live like the most neglected ones in society. When told of an unauthorized person casting out demons in his name, Jesus says to let him be. He is with us in this important ministry. Humility is a key for effective discipleship. As people petition Jesus to let them join him on the way, he cautions them that the Son of Man has not place to lay his head or to call home. Most people want to be rooted in society, but a disciple of Jesus has to be prepared to go anywhere in the kingdom. Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples to go out in pairs for the harvest of souls. He gave them behavioral instructions when they were received or rejected from a village. If anyone fails to offer hospitality, they will face a great wrath. Other towns repented and were converted. God will extoll them. Jesus then receives the seventy-two who returned from their missions. He listened to their joyful successes and gave thanks to the Father for revealing his grace to those who were simple and open-hearted.

Saints of the Week

September 30: Jerome, priest and doctor (342-420), studied Greek and Latin as a young man after his baptism by Pope Liberius. He learned Hebrew when he became a monk and after ordination he studied scripture with Gregory Nazianzen in Constantinople. He became secretary to the Pope when he was asked to translate the Bible into Latin.

October 1: Teresa of Avila, doctor (1873-1897), entered the Carmelites at age 15 and died at age 24 from tuberculosis. During her illness, Pauline, her prioress, asked her to write about her life in the convent. These stories are captured in "The Story of a Soul." He focused on her "little way" of pursuing holiness in everyday life.

October 2: The Guardian Angels are messengers and intermediaries between God and humans. They help us in our struggle against evil and they serve as guardians, the feast we celebrate today. Raphael is one of the guardians written about in the Book of Tobit. A memorial was added to the Roman calendar In 1670 in thanksgiving for their assistance.

October 3: Francis Borgia, S.J. became a duke at age 33. When his wife died and his eight children were grown, he joined the Jesuits. His preaching brought many people to the church and when he served as Superior General, the Society increased dramatically in Spain and Portugal. He established many missions in the new territories.

October 4: Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was from the wealthy Bernardone family who sold silk cloths. After serving as soldier as a prisoner of war, Francis chose to serve God and the poor. He felt called to repair God's house, which he thought was a church. His father was angry that he used family money so he disinherited him. He began to preach repentance and recruited others to his way of life. His order is known for poverty, simplicity, humble service, and delighting in creation.

October 6: Bruno, priest (1030-1101), became a professor at Rheims and diocesan chancellor. He gave up his riches and began to live as a hermit with six other men. They had disdain for the rampant clerical corruption. The bishop of Grenoble gave them land in the Chartreuse Mountains and they began the first Carthusian monastery. After serving in Rome for a few years, Bruno was given permission to found a second monastery in Calabria.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Sep 30, 1911. President William Howard Taft visited Saint Louis University and declared the football season open.
·      Oct 1, 1546. Isabel Roser was released from her Jesuit vows by St Ignatius after eight months.
·      Oct 2, 1964. Fr. General Janssens suffered a stroke and died three days later. During his generalate, the Society grew from 53 to 85 provinces, and from 28,839 to 35,968 members.
·      Oct 3, 1901. In France, religious persecution broke out afresh with the passing of Waldeck Rousseau's "Loi d'Association."
·      Oct 4, 1820. In Rome, great troubles arose before and during the Twentieth General Congregation, caused by Fr. Petrucci's intrigues. He sought to wreck the Society and was deposed from his office as Vicar General, though supported by Cardinal della Genga (afterwards Leo XII).
·      Oct 5, 1981. In a letter to Father General Arrupe, Pope John Paul II appointed Paolo Dezza as his personal delegate to govern the Society of Jesus, with Fr. Pittau as coadjutor.
·      Oct 6, 1773. In London, Dr James Talbot, the Vicar Apostolic, promulgated the Brief of Suppression and sent copies to Maryland and Pennsylvania.


  1. Jesus was present to other people rather than trying to control or dictate what needed to be done. We need to be present to others and to listen with our hearts. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Right on! Much good is done if we let other be others.