26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Posted: Wed, 22 Sep 2021 14:17
Our Gospel today warns us against sectarianism and trying to make out that Christ is just 'for us'—something we have been so guilty of! The disciples seem jealous that others are bringing the light of Christ to others: they fail to fully appreciate that the Gospel is for all and not just a narrow group in society. Jesus makes it very clear that all can share in the beauty of the mission—even the simplest acts can bring us into the presence of God: 'I assure you that anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to me will certainly receive a reward' (Mk 9:41).
In the readings today, we are given a choice: do you want to be a stumbling block or an enabler? The disciples were trying to stop others from doing good; Peter wanted to stop Jesus achieving his mission in Jerusalem. Jesus makes it clear that we must work together to build the reign of God. He is uncompromising in his appeal to them: as true followers of Christ we cannot cause scandal or hurt, especially to the most vulnerable—the children who have that privileged place at the table of the Lord. Hands, eyes and feet can all cause harm—the language used, leaves one in no doubt about the harm we might do: 'if your eye makes you lose your faith, take it out! It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell' (Mk 9:47).
Think about those who were there for you during your time of lockdown; those who offered support and care, especially when you were experiencing 'wobbles' and upset. Like you I am grateful for those community members, family and friends who acted as stepping stones—they were never stumbling blocks. Those who have offered support and forgiveness when I have made a mess of things—they have been ready to forgive and not point the accusing finger, when I well deserved it. They help to liberate us from a past that we would rather forget: our heads tell us that we are forgiven, but our hearts cannot always accept that love. These people are signposts of hope in moments of self-doubt and overthinking. Today's gospel invites us to use even those little things to make our world better—this week perhaps we could all take time to be that little bit kinder, that little bit more understanding, that little bit more loving.
It is all too easy to join the bandwagon of indifference; the events of these past eighteen months have shown us the need for care and support more than ever. It was those little acts of love, the cups of water offered that made all the difference. We are invited to ignore the cynicism, anger and exploitation that can come all too easy in our world today from those who do not care about bridge-building. The gospel is a real challenge to those tempted into 'Christian narcissism' to avoid the finger pointing and the temptation to throw others under the bus... it is not our job to belittle others or discourage them; we are in the business of building up and not breaking down. Pope Francis is continually emphasising the need to avoid selfishness, and recognises the terrible loneliness of the narcissist; today we are given guides to break away from that living hell:
Can you imagine a world where everybody is begging for a reason to get someone's attention, and no one is willing to love another person for free? Can you imagine a world like this, without free love? It looks like a human world, but it is actually hell. (St Peter's Square 14/06/2017).
This week calls us to those little actions of care: the cup of water, the cheeky cuppa, the email or note of encouragement. This week be enablers and not stumbling blocks; the great Salesian storyteller and poet, Flor McCarthy SDB offers us this opportunity for a worthwhile reflection:
What would Christ say of...today's drugs pushers, who wreck the lives of the young... if you saw a young tree vandalised, you would be angry because of what the tree could have become. Christ saw marvellous potential in every child and every person; he did not want that potential ruined
Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB
Image: ©Brett Jordan on Unsplash