HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: BUILDING COMMUNITY SPIRIT
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
People naturally crave and make effort to build an authentic community. For this reason, they form associations, clubs, organisations, neighbourhoods, unions, etc. It is important to note that the word community has its roots in the Latin Communitas, which means common. Therefore, a community is a group of people who share a common interest, who live under common rules and who participate actively in promoting what they share in common.
In an effort to build a community Moses chose elders who would assist him in discharging his duties as leader of the community. The Lord came down and gave these elders some portion of the spirit of Moses. Medad and Eldad were among the elders nominated to assist Moses. However, when God was empowering others with the spirit these two were absent. Afterwards, the Spirit came and rested upon Medad and Eldad and they began to prophesy. An overzealous young man came to report to Moses that Medad and Eldad were prophesying. The young fanatic was scandalized seeing these two men prophesying, thinking that the Holy Spirit was exclusively for those who received the spirit first. Moses said to him: “Are you jealous for my sake?” and Moses added that the Lord would love to see all people prophesy.
A similar story is found in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus sought the assistance of disciples to build the kingdom (community) of God in the world. John, his disciple came to say to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name.” John was thinking that the work of casting out devils was reserved for only the disciples. Jesus advised John not to stop the man because he too is a participant in building the community of the people of God in the world. Jesus adds, “For he that is not against us is for us.” This is to say that any person of goodwill and who does what is right, what is good, and pursues the truth, is a bona fide partner in building a solid community of God’s people.
The young man who came to Moses to report Medad and Eldad and John the disciple who came to report to Jesus have something in common. They were jealous to see that the Holy Spirit is working even in ordinary people or in people who were outside the ranks of the chosen. Their jealousy could have generated disunity and strife in the community. We know very well that some of the factors that destroy community spirit are: Jealousy, injustice and scandal.
Some people describe jealousy as love in competition. We all have a feeling of jealousy. Jealousy can be healthy or unhealthy. It is healthy when we are conscious of the hidden jealousy in us and we are still able to retain good will towards the person or group we feel jealous about. For example, the jealousy of God is a positive jealousy, because he wants the best for us and does not want us to worship other gods that cannot save us. Unhealthy jealousy, on the other hand leads to destructive rivalry and to envy. It is unhealthy rivalry that St. James refers to as bitter jealousy (James 3:14). St. James adds: For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. It was this kind of jealousy that led Cain to kill his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). It was this same kind of jealousy that led to selling of Joseph was the 11th son of Jacob to the Egyptians. There are many ways of addressing the jealousy that is in each of us. One of the most effective ways is to accept it as a natural phenomenon and another way is in learning to praise and acknowledge the success of other people or rivals.
Another destroyer of community spirit is scandal and so Jesus vehemently warns: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it will be better for him if a great mill of and he were thrown into the sea.” Jesus does not want any weakest and little members to be scandalized or to be surrounded by negative influences. Scandals sell in the media because they are shocking news of the moral failures and imperfections of prominent members of the society. These failures and imperfections normally bring about lapse of faith and dampen enthusiasm of members. In the on-going revelations of clerical scandals, some people left the Church in disappointment. Priests as shepherds and religious leaders have often been betrayed by human weaknesses, but Christ is still in control of his Church. The scandalous stories about the misdeeds of the leaders of the Church are wake up calls for reformation of every Christian community.
Finally, injustice is a canker worm, which hampers the building of community spirit. St. James rebukes rich people who exploit their workers and withhold their wages. They employ the poor and subject them to ‘overwork and underpay.’ He says to the greedy rich that God is watching them. Furthermore, Jesus challenges, not only the rich, but also everyone to uproot any habit of sin that impedes our spiritual progress. This is the interpretation of what he meant when he challenged his listeners to cut off the sinful hand, sinful foot and to pluck out the sin-infested eye.
What are my contribution and your efforts towards building a stronger community spirit in the religious organizations, associations and communities where we belong? Are we part of the problem or solution in promoting community spirit?
26th Sunday of the Year B; Numbers 11:25-29 ; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
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