Breath of the Spirit Reflection: A God Whose Generosity Unites Us All
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It can be so tempting to live in the comfort of our own communities, so easy to think that our particular group – ethnic, political, sexual, religious, fill-in-blank – lives just a bit more in God’s favor than the others. But today’s readings remind us that “God knows no partiality” (Acts 10:34), instead God lavishes the world with a healing, uniting spirit. However, the readings also remind us that we cannot reject this healing communion without consequences. God invites us into an ever-and-always-outpouring Love, a love so transformative that it transcends all human attempts at division. However, if it is the pain and isolation of division that we seek, we may well find it … even if God’s healing spirit remains in our midst all the while.
September 26, 2021: the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
A reflection by Tom DeVoyd
In today’s first reading, the spirit that God had given to Moses was also shared with the seventy elders who had gathered to pray. Some of the spirit also passed to two elders who were back at the community campsite. Joshua, who had been an assistant to Moses since youth, suggests that the two elders who were not in the tent should not have received the spirit. Moses wonders if Joshua is jealous and goes on to say, “Would that all God’s people were prophets! Would that God might bestow the spirit on them all.” Some commentaries say the spirit coming down on people was the reason they spoke in tongues. The spirit speaking through them. This passage can be applied to evangelization, our willingness to share how God works in our lives. God so generously sending the spirit invites us to share our witness without worrying about the consequences. Here, the long list of martyred saints gives us good example. Throughout the Christian scriptures and the early Church, spreading the word has been a key to the growth of Christianity.
In the second reading, the author of James laments people receiving riches and luxury in this life. Those riches do not put them closer to God. The author notes that all the gold and silver will be gone in time. “Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.” This stark image challenges us to trust in God as opposed to our possessions. Later in this passage, James speaks to those that have cried out to God because the wealthy and powerful have mistreated them. James assures us that God will answer their prayers. This passage can sound harsh, and James is not mincing words. Instead, this stark reminder calls us to examine our lives for greed and makes plain how toxic greed can be to our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters.
Today’ gospel starts with, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop them, because they not following us.” But Jesus does not want these healers to be stopped. He replies, “Those that are not against us are for us.” Jesus calls us to accept even those who are different from us or who are not in our particular group. The Messiah did not come to save a handful of Apostles, but to save the world (John 3:16).
The gospel goes on to say that we should get rid of anything that prevents us from following God. If one tries to make people not believe in the teachings, it would be better for them to be tossed into the sea. If the stumbling block is a part of you, then get rid of it. Again, the imagery is stark: “better to be maimed” than to reject God’s love, which the author suggests is as painful as an unquenchable fire. Our own actions can cause this painful separation from God, this alienation from Love. The authors of James and Mark want us to realize what is at stake!
The first reading and the gospel also share a similar theme. God decides who is called to spread the Word. This divine decision is not based on what others may feel or want, but rather on the will of the Spirit whose wisdom is far beyond our own. In both readings, certain members of the community were jealous, they had wanted to be the ones who were chosen. But their reactions may even go deeper than that. Before seeing how God’s will worked through others, they thought they were the special ones. These readings remind us that this type of “chosenness” is not of God. Instead, we are called to work toward a common unity in the spirit. No one is better than anyone else. If you look at society today, people so often are placed into categories. Within these categories, there is further division. These divisions are not what God asks of us. They are not God’s vision for the world.
Perhaps this week, we can notice when jealousy rises within us. We can pay attention to the times we put people into hierarchies – either below, or above, where we believe we are. We can remember that God has not been jealous in pouring out the spirit. Just the opposite. As in today’s Scriptures, God celebrates whenever the spirit of Love is received. God rejoices whenever healing happens.
Tom DeVoyd is a nurse in long term care and works with resident with Dementia. He is an advocate for his residents and has a Masters’ Degree in Nursing in Adult Psych/ Mental Health. He is also an advocate for the LGBTQI+ community. Tom currently lives in a small town in NH with his partner of years Phil. He enjoys reflecting on the scriptures, and focusing on the world of when the scriptures were written.