Tuesday, September 22, 2009

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 27, 2009

Lectionary #127

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

When we hear the words from James as he rails against those rich persons who oppressed the poor, we most likely visualize persons like Bernard Madoff, the bankers with their huge bonuses, and the brokers who sold mortgages to poor people, pocketed their commissions and skipped town. We probably would say, “Preach it, Brother James, preach it!” But what if we realize that James is addressing his words to us? Then we would be thinking, “Now he’s stop preaching and gone to meddling!”

Now most of us would never act in ways that James in describing in the reading. We would never withhold wages from workers. We would never hoard wealth, never sharing it with those in need. We would never live in “luxury and pleasure,” while others live in poverty and squalor. Or have we? How often do we shop in stores that withhold compensation their workers are due? How often do we stand silently by while developers take over poor neighborhoods, building homes and condominiums, bringing in wealthy tenants and driving out the poor ones? How often do we fail to lift a finger or raise a voice for those who are oppressed in this world?

James was a prophetic voice in his time; we are called to be a prophetic voice in our times. We have seen how corporations, how people of wealth, through their political contributions, buy access to our political leaders. Their voices speak louder than the voices of those who are poor. God is calling us to be their voice, he calling us to fulfill the prophetic role we accepted when we were baptized into the Body of Christ. We need only open ours hearts to God, and he will send us his spirit, and we will prophesy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 20, 2009

Lectionary #134

Wisdom 2: 12, 17-20
James 3: 16—4: 3
Mark 9: 30-37

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

“Numero Uno,” “Top Dog,” “King of the Hill.” It almost seems to be in our DNA, this desire to be ahead of the crowd, to be the Boss. We see it in other mammals. The “Alpha male and female” in a wolf pack. The stallions that fight each other to control the herd. The bull elephant seal, protecting his harem from all challengers. And in humans, we see this competitive streak, whether in sports, in the office, in business or politics, we all want to be recognized as the greatest.

This applies even to the disciples of Jesus Christ. They are small group, minuscule compared to the forces of the Roman Empire, or the priestly class of the Temple in the Jerusalem, yet they are arguing about which one of them is the greatest of this small group. One can picture Jesus holding his head and shaking it as he listens to this. He then sets the Apostles straight, and turns their world upside down. Contradicting everything they have experienced and learned in their society, they hear that to be the greatest, means to be the least, to be the leader means to be the servant.

This is an alien concept even in our own time. In the world of business, to be the greatest means to have the biggest office, the fanciest limo, the largest mansion, and the biggest bonus. Celebrities expect the best seating in restaurants, all their needs and desires to be taken care of. Even some leaders among the clergy expect to be treated like princes.

Jesus preached that we all are called to be servants to each other. Anyone who is called to be leaders in their fields of endeavor, need to remember that all the talents and strengths we have are gifts from God. And these gifts are meant to be used for the good of all.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 13, 2009

Lectionary #131

Isaiah 50: 4c-9a
James 2: 14-18
Mark 8: 27-35

When a charismatic leader is trying to entice people to join his or her movement, there are promises of rewards, glory, and the gratifications of desires. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has been acclaimed as the Messiah by Peter, but then he begins to describe the suffering he must undergo. Peter is shocked by this, and tries to let Jesus know that this is not the way to recruit and keep followers. Jesus then lets his followers know what it means to be his disciple. It means self-sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom, even to the point of losing one’s life.

This is the challenge that Jesus lays before us, this is the question he asks, do we wish to be his disciple and follow him? To follow him means giving up our self-centeredness and loving God with our whole heart and mind, and loving others unreservedly. It means sharing all that we are, our talents, our gifts, and our wealth, with those who are in need. And it means bearing with our own weaknesses, pains, personal crises and troubles, and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Many people in our society today would not find this an attractive calling. They would be happy to accept the title “Christian,” and declare that they are a follower of Jesus, but continue to maintain their comfortable lives. We have seen though that many people can see through this rouse, and are turned off by the hypocrisy. Faith that is not lived is worthless, lifeless. We need to trust that God’s grace will give us the courage to really begin the gospel journey, give us the strength to pick up our individual cross’s and follow Jesus. The journey may be hard, with sacrifice called for along the way. But if we remain faithful to Jesus and his call, the journey will lead us to new life.