FIRST READING (Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!)
A reading from the Book of Numbers (11:25-29)
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.
Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; yet the spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp. So, when a young man quickly told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my lord, stop them.” But Moses answered him, “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!”—The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (19:8, 10, 12-13, 14)
The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart. (Ps 19:9a)
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. (R)
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true, all of them just. (R)
Though your servant is careful of them, very diligent in keeping them, yet who can detect failings? Cleanse me from my unknown faults! (R)
From wanton sin especially, restrain your servant; let it not rule over me. Then shall I be blameless and innocent of serious sin. (R)
SECOND READING (Your wealth has rotted away.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint James (5:1-6)
Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure 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. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Cf. Jn 17:17b, 17a)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth; consecrate us in the truth. (R)
GOSPEL (Whoever is not against us is for us. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (9:38-43, 45, 47-48)
At that time, John said to Jesus, “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 can at the same time speak 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.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’”. —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“For whoever is not against us, is with us!”
One of the greatest gifts God gives to us is the ability to nurture friendships. Good, close, intimate friends who are there for us “in good times and in bad,” are praised throughout the Scriptures as a blessing. From the Book of Proverbs, we are taught that, “A man with many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks close to his brother” [Prov. 18:24]; and “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” [Prov. 13:20]. But perhaps the most famous verse comes from Jesus: “ No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” [John 15:13]
This gift of true, loyal friendship helps us to navigate through our world. It is very hard for those of us with good friends to appreciate the difficulties that people without them have to make every day.
As hard as it may seem the theme of true friendship is woven through our readings today. In their commentaries on the Scriptures, some of the early Church Fathers say today’s Gospel as a reference to inmate, true friendships. The Gospel passage I just read – for these Fathers – was explained in the context about not leading others into scandal – starting from the innocent, children. The Lord admonishes that, for anyone who leads others into scandal or sin, “It would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” And for those who have been here a long time with me, remember that the Greek word for “scandal” refers to a large stone that trips us up on a path.
Coming as this passage does in instructions of discipleship, the readings provide “keys” to help us in growing to spiritual maturity as we come closer to the ideal of becoming disciples of Christ.
In the first reading from the Book of Numbers, we hear about two men, Eldad and Medad, who were to be given the gift of God’s wisdom. But when the Lord sent down the power of prophecy on those chosen by Moses, Eldad and Medad were not with the group. Yet, the Spirit descended on them also. The lesson in the 1st reading is the challenge to have insight not on who is against us, but on who are our true allies in the community of faith. Who are our true friends? We live in a hostile world where the Church is attacked both from outside and from within. But there are organizations, movements and individuals who complement and assist the work the Church does. They may not be baptized Christians, but they are moved by the same Spirit of God – even if they do not recognize this – and they are doing the work of the Lord. They are our friends. They too promote the sacredness of life and protect family values, and who respect human sexuality as God created it, people who point out moral wrong when they see it. They may not be fellow Catholics or Christians, but they are our allies in promoting the work of the Gospel. “For whoever is not against us, is with us!”
In our 2nd reading from St. James, we see a call to look beyond what God may have given us as a blessing – to see what we are doing with these blessings. St. James is writing about members of his community who cheat and are openly deceitfully. His point is wider than just these instances of cheating – He asks whether we use the resources and benefits we have received from God for the benefit of God’s Kingdom, or to we horde everything just for ourselves? James warns us that they this latter group are not true friends – they are a scandal = scandulum, stumbling block.
This reading from James helps us to assess the qualities we should seek in friendships. Look how people use their material and spiritual assets! This 2nd reading can be condensed into the three questions St. Ignatius of Loyola I have mentioned in the past, taken from his Spiritual Exercises: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What should I be doing for Christ? Do we see our friends using the gifts they are given by God for the good of all?
Turning now to the Gospel we glean the lesson that friends, especially close friends, are a blessing most of the time. But they can also be a cause for sin. It a good friend were to intentionally try to convince another friend to sin, this is a scandal, and it is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching today.
The Lord is telling us that if we have close friends who are intentionally or maliciously tempting us to turn from God, it’s better that we let go of that “friend” and cut him or her off. The hand, foot, or eye is a symbol of those friends who work hard to draw us into sin. It is better that such friendships end, than to be drawn into Hell with them – even at the expense of being spiritually maimed.
And if we are the friend drawing others into sin, its better for us to cut our friendship off rather than harm those we are tempting.
This Gospel passage reveals the powerful natural bond of friendship. Friendship is a GOOD THING. And when you have a close friend, you find great consolation in knowing your friend is deeply committed to you and your well-being, and will always be there with you. But every friendship must be continually evaluated in the light of faith and truth. Sometimes, friendships can be a scandalum, that stumbling block that gets in the way of our faith in God.
Today l;et us pray in thanksgiving for the true friends we have! Let us also reflect on our friendships. Tink about that close, intimate friend in your life, and look how he or she influences you. Make sure that Christ is the centre and that faith always prevails in this most sacred natural human bond.
Celebrant: Our Master teaches us that discipleship means a radical rejection of evil. Our prayers today are offered with a will to make sacrifices to follow the Lord and overcome evil.
READER: For God’s Holy People struggling to reject all that is evil in their lives, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For nations where children suffer because of their faith, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all teachers, administrators and volunteers who work in the institutions of Catholic Education in our diocese, that their work to educate and guide our youth will continue to be fruitful, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For people who have let their lives be controlled more by possessions that lead them away from God’s mercy and love, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all the seriously ill in our parish, and for the souls of the faithful who have died in these recent months, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Almighty God, the people called to follow your Son confidently bring their supplications before you, asking for courageous faith, through Christ, our Lord, (all) AMEN.