Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted Sep 30, 2018, 2:17 PM by Church Office   [ updated Sep 30, 2018, 2:17 PM by Michelle Massung ]

            In today's first reading from the book of Numbers and from the Gospel from St. Mark, we hear about being a part of an in-group and about how this may cause some problems. At the time of Jesus, an in-group consisted primarily of your immediate and extended family, plus your close friends. This close knit group worked together for the common purpose of survival. For example food had to be procured every day; it was difficult to store food and the group’s first priority was to ensure that everyone would be fed. This was also true with water and other basic necessities like clothing and shelter. Families often times shared the same dwelling place to save on heating. Work was divided up among members of the in-group. There was also a leader of the in-group; it could have been the oldest male, or a teacher, or religious leader but there was always somebody in charge.

            In the reading from the book of Numbers, Moses is clearly the leader of his in-group, the Israelites. Yet he is being totally overburdened by the needs of the people. He needs help and to do this he wants to break up this large group into 70 different but related smaller groups. Yet this break up causes some infighting, jealousy, and envy. Rather than focus on the task at hand, getting to the Promised Land, they are worried about their own positions within the structure. Moses has to take corrective actions by redirecting their focus to that of the Promised Land.

            In the Gospel, Jesus is faced with the same problem. He has moved out of Nazareth when he started his public ministry and established a residence in Capernaum. He recruited many of his own group. It is made up of his 12 apostles, and their related families and friends. Although the 12 apostles formed his closest group, Jesus and the disciples were very dependent upon the others in the group, especially the women to help provide them with some of the basics such as food and clothing. Other followers of Jesus that were unable to accompany Jesus as he traveled the countryside established their own groups and spread the good news about Jesus. However the closest followers of Jesus felt they had the privilege of being in the only real in-group of followers of Jesus. When John tried to suppress the other followers of Jesus, Jesus corrects John. Jesus’ message is of love and fellowship not separation and division.

            Now let me discuss another in-group, the Catholic Church. We as a church came out of the in-group of Jesus. He designated that Peter be the head of this church and over the past 2,000 years this church has grown and evolved, but it's primary mission is to provide us a way to truly love God, especially in the holy sacrifice of the mass and to provide a means for us to love our neighbors by helping those in need. There are more Catholic hospitals, charities, schools, and other organizations that meet the needs of others then any other organization on the world. However we are not the only church that follows the teaching of Christ. We all know many other Christian denominations and at times we may be in disagreements with them over the singular message of the Bible compared to our beliefs of scripture, tradition, and the Magisterium, or the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, or the authority of the pope. Although we may have these differences, we are still all followers of Christ and all have the same goal of spreading the good news of Jesus to others. As Jesus says in the Gospel, “for whoever is not against us is for us”, meaning those that spread the message of salvation are related to us and our mission.

When I attended Catholic school in the early 60’s I was taught that only Catholics went to Heaven. Fortunately, Vatican II changed all that teaching and we now teach that many others besides Catholics can be welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. Those at the council more than likely used this passage from Mark’s Gospel to change the position and teaching of the Catholic Church.

            We too in this local parish can get caught up with petty jealousy or get into some infighting with other Christian denominations or even members of our own parish regarding the true mission of our parish and the Catholic Church. However, as Jesus says whoever is for us can't be against us regarding the overall mission of following Christ. We are all called to love God and our neighbor and that needs to be the focus of our efforts. Just think of how much more good we can do here in Altoona for the needs of others if all the Christian churches in this city worked together for the betterment of the needy rather than focusing on our differences. We should focus on what makes us the same since we are all followers of Christ. This week pray for more unity among Christian churches so that we can turn our focus to loving God and helping others rather than focusing on our differences. In this way, we will truly be united in our efforts to be followers of Christ.