Fr. Wilson Andrade is the pastor of St. Ann Parish and the Native Peoples’ Mission, both in Toronto, Ont.
There is a story of a devout Buddhist nun who went to the temple regularly to do her ritual prayer of meditation, while burning incense, as she sat before her favourite Buddha statue; one which she had donated to the temple. One day as she was praying she realized that the smoke from her incense was going to other Buddha statues. She did not like this. So she made a paper tunnel which allowed her incense to drift up only towards her Buddha statue. She felt happy knowing that her Buddha would now get all of her incense. With calmness she closed her eyes and continued to pray. However, after she finished praying and she opened her eyes, she saw that the face of her favourite Buddha statue had become completely darkened from all her incense smoke.
With the free and open message of Jesus, “Whoever is not against us is for us,” I would like to reflect on today’s Scriptural passages with these three words: Jealousy; Justice; and Joy.
In the first reading, Moses confronts his favourite assistant, Joshua, who had complained to Moses that two elders were prophesying in the name of God. Moses asks Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake?”
We hear of a similar incident in the Gospel, when Jesus confronts His favourite disciple, John, who wanted to stop a man who was not a follower of Jesus but who was healing in His name.
Jealousy or envy is one of the seven deadly sins that can bring division, destruction and death. Jealousy is a complex emotion where one feels sad at the happiness or success of others.
Today, Moses and Jesus ask their closest followers, Joshua and John, to confront the jealousy within themselves. As jealousy stems from pride and prejudice, they are better equipped to proclaim God’s kingdom on Earth if they leave behind their own envy-filled ideologies or narrow belief systems. Joshua and John thought that they were the only guardians of God’s mission, but Moses and Jesus wanted to open God’s kingdom to all of God’s people.
Today we can ask ourselves: “How open am I to accepting others and sharing my ministry in my church community?”
If envy and jealousy divide, then justice brings unity while promoting peace and harmony. Jesus uses the surgical words of “cut it off” to describe sterilizing ourselves from those sins that threaten to make us lose ourselves: body, mind and soul.
Jesus calls for justice with truth that helps diminish jealousy. It opens the mind and heart to a new awareness of relationships – to the reality that in God we all belong to each other. We are brothers and sisters in one family: the family of God.
Justice tests our tolerance, condemns territorialism, produces patience, deplores prejudice, promotes acceptance, rebukes discrimination, encourages openness, disapproves of cover-ups, invites inclusivity and denounces exclusivism.
St. James condemns with strong words those who lived rich, lavish, exclusive lifestyles, yet neglected to share their time, talents and treasure with those who are less privileged. He calls for justice and solidarity among all God’s people.
Moses opens the mind of Joshua, asking that “all the Lord’s people were prophets, and the Lord would put his spirit on them.” Today, in our church and in our society, we need prophets of God whose Spirit is in them, who speak the truth, who stand for justice, who work with mercy and who are witnesses of God’s healing power to love with joy. We are all called to holiness, to experience God’s mercy and peace.
“A servant of God ought always to be happy,” said St. Philip Neri. He also reminds us that “Christian joy is a gift of God flowing from a good conscience,” so we are invited to cultivate an authentic formation of conscience, grounded in God’s love.
As we heard in the Psalm, the “precepts of the Lord are just, and give joy to the heart.” One who lives in truth and justice, is not afraid, but lives in peace and joy. St. Ignatius of Antioch, a first century martyr, summarized today’s Gospel message as:
"Christianity is not a matter of persuading people of particular ideas, but of inviting them to share in the greatness of Christ. So pray, that I may never fall into the trap of impressing people, with clever speech, but instead, I may learn, to speak with humility, desiring only to impress people with Christ Himself."
Everything we do matters: our attitudes, our behaviours, the words we use, the prayers we say, the work we do. Even a small gesture of “whosever gives you a cup of water to drink, because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”
The idea that little things matter is best promoted by the life and writings of St. Theresa of Child Jesus, “Little Flower of Jesus,” as she called herself. She wrote, “Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God, do all that you do with love.” Let us live in love, accept everyone with love, spread the joy of Jesus to all people of God and pray that no one takes that joy from you.
Today, as we gather on this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, we pray for the openness of spirit that Moses asked for, that acceptance of the strangers that Jesus desired, for that spirit of sharing and solidarity that James wrote about. We, who are baptised with the water and spirit, anointed with the oils of sacred chrism, become “as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King,” may we live always as a member of His body, sharing everlasting life. Amen.
This homily is based on the readings for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B: Numbers 11.25-29; James 5.1-6; and Mark 9.38-43, 45, 47-48 – Temptations to Sin.