Numbers 11: 21-25 James 5: 1-6 Mark: 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48
Today we have heard some very strong, very blunt statements/ They are statements, I believe, that ought to lead to real soul-searching.
In both the Old Testament book of Numbers and in the Gospel of Saint Mark we hear complaints that really are not all that unusual. What these complaints boil down to is what is heard from one group about another: “They are note members of the team, our team.” Others are doing a job that is jealously guarded as belonging to a select few. It is being asked: “What right do they have to do this?” In both instances the responses are strong. Moses states: “Would that all the people if the Lord were prophets.” Jesus comments: “For whoever is not against us is with us.”
Along with these accounts, we have also heard from the Apostle James. He minces no words in condemning those whose wealth had been acquired from unjust, unfair treatment of workers, unjust treatment of employees who were not as fortunate.
If we understand passages of Scripture heard in the context of the Liturgy as our God speaking to us through these inspired authors, then these strong words from today’s reading sought to lead us to true interior examination. They can easily strike a chord of truth within anyone of us. Why? Because we often can and do limit the experience of the goodness of God according to our own personal expectations or criteria. This is the way God ought to be!
What happens when we do this, when we limit the experience of God to our terms? Doing so leads to prejudice, close-mindedness, lack of openness, insincerity, lack of compassion and understanding, injustice, and on and on to so many other similar negative and destructive attitudes. Attitudes like these are what so easily lead “little ones” into sin. Attitudes like these are the hands to be cut off, the feet to be severed, the eyes to be plucked out.
My reflections on this led me to consider what has long guided my own spirituality, what I hope guides and directs my efforts toward a deepening relationship with God. I have found that guiding principle in a core value of the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Finding God in all things.” Rather than limit the experience of God, as did Joshua and John, we are to follow the counsel of Moses and Jesus. We are to search for and grow in an awareness that the revelation of God can be found in everyone in every place, in everything. Many times this is not easy. Many persons or situations seem to move in an opposite direction. But the effort to pay attention to how the presence of God can be found even in these circumstances allows for a greater desire to be more grateful, more reverent, more devoted, and more able to reflect and reveal a genuine faith and trust in our good and gracious God.