Sunday, September 20, 2015

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 27, 2015

First Reading Commentary
It's best to begin with a little background leading up to this Reading.  The reason the Lord took “some of the spirit that was on Moses” was because Moses asked for this as he was feeling overburdened by being God's sole representative.  Moses spent long hours listening to complaints and making judgments on individual cases from disputes that came up among the people of Israel.  Moses finally hit a wall and was burned out.  God heard Moses' plea and “bestowed” His Spirit on “the seventy elders.”
With our Lord speaking to Moses from a cloud, perhaps we are getting some foreknowledge of Eucharistic Adoration.  As we gaze at the Monstrance, our Lord is in a cloud; that is to say, He is hidden under the guise of Bread; and as we try to listen with the ears of our heart, we hope to hear Him speak to us.    
There are absolutely no limits to the Holy Spirit; no limits to where He can go, no limits to the number of people He can rest upon, no limits to the number of incredible and miraculous works He can do.  There are many things the Paraclete does for each of us daily.  There are many things He does through us daily, although the hustle and bustle of daily life makes most of those works go unnoticed.  There may be something you say that leads someone to conversion, or brings comfort, or makes them more open-minded.  There may be a neighbor of yours who seldom goes to church but just happens to be standing at the front door or peaking out the window watching you go on Sunday; and then they begin to wonder what keeps you going every Sunday.  There are many circumstances and occurrences daily that the Holy Spirit is responsible for that we are seldom dazzled by. 
Reflect on your own life and think about the incredible things that have happened that would not have happened if you weren't at the right place at the right time.  Who knows how many disasters you avoided because you were at another place at the right time?  Think of the bad things that have happened and the good that came from it. 
God brings good out of every evil.  In life, for every Good Friday, an Easter Sunday always seems to follow.  We must be open to God's graces and imitate His sacrificial love for the Mystical Body of Christ by realizing and accepting that our own personal Good Fridays might very well end up as someone else's Easter Sunday.  But isn't that what happened with our Lord Jesus Christ?  He experienced the pain and suffering on Good Friday but Easter Sunday was His gift to us. 
We are temples of the Holy Spirit, and as disciples of our Lord the allowance of ourselves to be His instruments and the taking up of our cross daily may very well be for the good of the members; and when we can be faithful to that, then we have grasped that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Second Reading Commentary
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church this Reading falls under the subtitle, "Love for the Poor" and teaches that “love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use” (CCC 2445). 
The theology of material wealth is often misunderstood.  Having material wealth is not unpleasant to the Eyes of God.  It's actually a gift from Him entrusted to those who have it.  It can be the root of sin if those who are entrusted with it are selfish and deliberately ignore the needs of others.  In the words of Saint John Chrysostom, "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life."  If you have material wealth, more than likely the Holy Spirit has on one or more occasions led you to individuals or charities that were in need.  It's no accident!  Your response to give makes you a willing instrument of the Holy Spirit.  Saint Gregory the Great says that when we attend to the needs of those in want, we are paying a debt of justice.  In this Reading Saint James gives us a very stern lesson on the result of hoarding material wealth; the material goods will either be spent or rot away. 
In the final verse, “You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous One; He offers you no resistance”; more than likely this is a reference to Jesus and what Saint James seems to be conveying in a no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point tone is aimed at those who prefer the temporary pleasures of material goods instead of the eternal treasure that only Jesus can give.  Jesus, likewise, warns us about preferring the rewards of this life instead of the eternal gifts of heaven and teaches us to store up for ourselves treasure in heaven; for where our treasure is, there also will our hearts be (cf. Matthew 6:19-21).
Gospel Commentary
In the First Reading Joshua is complaining that others are prophesying.  Joshua, like Saint John in this Gospel, made the same assumption that either God has limitations or that perhaps God should limit Himself. 
In this Gospel account Jesus says, “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in My Name who can at the same time speak ill of Me.”  In 1 Corinthians 12:3, Saint Paul says, "I tell you that nobody speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus be accursed.'"  When studying Scripture, we find these consistencies often because God is truly the same always. 
“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.”  On this verse Nicholas of Lyra comments, "Here we may find that no one can be excused from good works; since there is no one who is not able to give at least a cup of cold water; and we are assured that he will not lose his reward." 
The final verses of this Gospel are harsh and not easy to listen to or read.  But of course our Lord is not literally telling us to put a millstone around our neck and throw ourselves into the sea, nor is He is telling us to cut off a hand or a foot; nor does He want us to pluck an eye out.  There are quite a bit of scholarly opinions as to what Jesus means by these chilling statements.  The most commonly accepted theory is that our Lord is telling us to accept our sufferings; that even His most faithful disciples are being cleansed and purified by the sufferings of this life.  Accepting our sufferings is easier said than done but something to consider is that Jesus accepted His sufferings even though He came into this world sinless, led a sinless life, was crucified and died an innocent, sinless Victim; and ascended into heaven as pure as He always was and ever shall be.  In other words, the perfection of God doesn't quite fit in with such occurrences but He took it upon Himself for our sakes. 
When Jesus speaks of “Gehenna” and “the unquenchable fire,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a warning; but since warnings are messages of what could happen, there is always an underlying message of hope: "The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity.  The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in Whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.  The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny.  They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion" (CCC 1035-1036).