Nu 11. 25-29; Ps 19; Jms 5. 1-6; Mk 9. 38-43, 45, 47-48
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Our Mission: Our Messiah’s Mission
Each one’s vocation is to be disciples of our Messiah Jesus. Misunderstanding our messiah leads to misunderstanding discipleship. The first disciples misunderstood Messiah Jesus while he was with them. He said he would be handed over to others, who would kill him then rise on the third day, but they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. Jesus taught them that God’s messiah came to serve with his life./1/
Today we heard they misunderstood that God’s messiah came to serve all without distinction. John spoke on behalf of the disciples, whom Jesus sent to do his work of healing and evangelizing: “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” We easily, too, make the distinction between us and them. It’s part of our human condition and always has been. It challenged Moses, early in the history of God’s people. So, when a young man quickly told Moses, that two men he did not appoint were prophesying in the camp,” Joshua...who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my lord, stop them,” Moses’ response speaks to us and our vocation today: Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!
You and I are prophets. We were baptized into Jesus our Priest, Prophet and King./2/ Jesus, too, sends us to do his work; to give voice to his gospel by our deeds; to grow as people free to do and to be without need of honors; to do and to be with openness and understanding Jesus modeled for everyone, particularly people in need of reconciliation.
That singular voice in the New Testament, the Letter of James, is a companion to the gospel message. The Letter of James shares Jesus’ desire for his church that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. Equality does not ignore or erase differences. Equality among humans means that each person has inestimable value.
The scathing censure of the rich, who withheld from others so they might enjoy luxury and pleasure, hurts our ears. The result of hoarding—You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one—wounds our hearts. As ear-hurting and heart-rending as these words and much of the Letter of James is, James reminds us that we are people of morals not manners.
Morals are about right and wrong and about choosing to do the lesser wrong and the more right action. Manners are about habits, customs, practices and the ways we put things to use. If we operated only from manners, we would do the lesser wrong and the more right by chance. Human habits, customs and practices are often shaped by our penchant to distinguish, as the disciple John and Moses’ aide, Joshua, did: between us and them.
Morals, as James, Jesus, indeed our Catholic tradition with its social teaching remind us, shapes our choices to do some things and not others. Jesus clothes our choosing with his Spirit, who makes us prophets, people whose deeds and lives give voice to Jesus here and now. Morals, not manners, make our actions authentic, give our actions authority. Authority as Jesus understood and practiced it and reflecting on Jesus and his gospel, the church understands that authority functions as service and ministry to all in need of God’s mercy. As Gesu Parish knows better and better, placing God’s mercy to us in service of others, shapes us as more faithful, prophetic servants of our Messiah’s mission.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, become freshly aware of the Trinity anointing you to continue Jesus’ priestly, prophetic and royal work. Ask Moses, who desired all God’s people to be prophets, to present you to Jesus. Praise Jesus for his goodness to you and ask Jesus, “Help me be your authentic disciple and your prophetic voice in deed and word.” Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his prayer to shape us as servants of God’s mercy and help our gospel-actions deepen the union of heaven and earth and of human minds, hearts and lives.
1. Mark 9.30-37, last Sunday’s gospel selection, which immediately precedes today’s gospel selection.
2. RCIA [228, U.S. Edition]; RBC 125; 151.
Wiki-images of Moses with children of Israel and the headpiece to the Letter of James are in the public domain.