A reading from the book of Numbers
“The Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the Lord bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.” However, there were two men who were left in camp “yet the spirit came to rest on them also.” Joshua, Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my Lord, stop them.” But Moses answered them, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”
Moses obviously had a broader and deeper vision of God’s generosity than did Joshua who seemed to be stuck in legalism. But think about God’s generosity to us. God, the Holy Spirit, lives in us every day throughout our lives, even when we are not aware of this powerful presence or even if we are not faithful to the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit remains, abides in each of us. The Spirit is our constant companion, especially in our darkest hours and days and years. Do you talk to the Spirit within you? Even more important, do you listen to the Spirit?
“The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.” For the Jewish people, following the precepts, the Law of Moses, was the way to salvation. For us Christians, the way to salvation is through faith in Jesus, and his law is simple: “Love your God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself.” It is so simple, yet so challenging.
A reading from the Letter of James
James is very hard on the few rich people of his time: “Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. … You have stored up treasures for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”
So, here we are two thousand years later, in our own country, where there are billions of dollars in wages withheld each year from the poorest of the poor workers. Unlike some other countries, we have laws to protect people who are being cheated and dozens of organizations that work to promote justice, but it still happens, harming not only the workers but also the majority of businesses that treat workers fairly and do not “steal” their wages. This ancient admonition from James is as true today as it was centuries ago.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 9:38-43, 45, 47-48)
There was a form of speech popular in the time of Jesus that he used it from time to time to make his point. It is called “Semitic exaggeration” and it sounds strange to us today. When Jesus talks about cutting off a hand of a foot or plucking out an eye, he is using Semitic exaggeration, but over the years these expressions have caused much confusion.
The point that Jesus is making is the importance of entering into the kingdom of God or what we call heaven. That is what is most important. That is our goal.
This passage describes a disagreement between Jesus and John, similar to the one between Moses and Joshua: “‘Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.’ Jesus replied, ‘Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who, at the same time, speaks ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.’” Jesus is always more inclusive, more understanding than we might be, always looking at the deeper motivation rather than at categories of exclusion.
Is there anyone who you may have excluded from your life because of differences of opinion? Or has anyone excluded you because of differences? There may be some deep differences that keep us apart from one another, but many other differences that are less important or, by making us diverse and therefore more interesting, actually enrich our lives.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.