Ordinary 26th Sunday
ORDINARY 26TH SUNDAY
Num. 11: 25-29 Jam. 5: 1-6 Mk. 9: 38-49
OWNERSHIP OVER GOD
The more limitations we carry, the less we are free and happy.
One of the reasons why our life is not as fulfilling as we expect is that we carry a lot many things, which limit us. The more limitations we carry, the less our life is fulfilled. One of the marks of growth is to identify our limitations and get out of them. The readings today invite us to become aware of two such limitations and break them in order to march towards fullness of life.
The first limitation is our undue attachment to wealth. Wealth is a cocoon wherein many try to get the warmth of life. There are a plenty of us who build our empires on the foundation of wealth and try to have a comfortable feeling about it. We don’t realize that wealth, which we think to be life-giving and life-enhancing, is the very thing that limits the quality and quantity of happiness. In the second reading, St. James explains that wealth is very transient and that can lead a person to destruction. Though the words of St. James are addressed to the unjust rich, his words are equally applicable to anyone who has wealth as the centre of his/her life, since one’s love of wealth makes one do any worst thing.
The unfortunate thing is that it is this self-destructive thing that many hold onto and keep as the centre of their life. We do know that there are people who think nothing but wealth in their lives. It is wealth and wealth alone that moves them. There is a story about a youth who pursued his college studies by staying in a hostel. His father wrote many letters to him, but the boy did not respond to him at all. The father felt very bad about it and shared his pain with one of his friends. The friend told him, “I give you an idea. If you follow it, you are sure to get his answer.” The father followed the idea and certainly he got a letter from his son within just a few days. This was the idea of his friend! He told the father to write a letter to his son thus: “My dear son, I know that you are too busy with your studies to the extent you don’t have time to answer me. I am really proud of you. Herewith I am enclosing a cheque for Rs. 5000. Kindly receive it.” But the friend asked him not to place the cheque in the envelop. Within another three days, the answer came, “Dear father, I received your letter. But the cheque you have not put in the envelop.”
Religion is that which aims to help human beings to break all sorts of limitations – physical, mental and psychological – and move beyond it. But unfortunately, what happens quite often is that they very religious practices which are supposed to free us, become chains in our lives. This is the second type of limitation that we are called to become aware.
One of the tendencies of some individuals, and even groups, who are in the religious path, is to claim ownership over God and His gifts. These are the people who unwittingly believe that they are closer to God than anybody else and God is closer to them than to anybody else. Consequently they begin to go the extent of claiming ownership over God. Exactly this was the problem of the Pharisees.
In the first reading, we see Joshua telling Moses to stop Eldad and Medad prophesying. These are the two people who did not come to the tent of meeting and did not take part in the so-called ‘anointing service’ arranged by Moses. As far as Joshua was concerned, only Moses had the right to decide the things, related to God. He thought that even God won’t/can’t work beyond the boundaries, set up by Moses. Even today, there are people like Joshua who assign boundaries even to God and expect Him to work within those boundaries.
John is yet another example. As far as his understanding went, only those people who followed Jesus could use His name and drive benefit out of it. So when he heard that someone, ‘who was not theirs’ was casting away demons, he told Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
Very few are the people who, like Moses and Jesus, know that God has no boundaries – whatever the kind may be. If God has boundaries, then He can no more be God. Many people, who try to walk in the path of God, have their boundaries, such as religion, caste, race etc.. Even though it is true that these limitations are unavoidable, in stead of working on them and freeing themselves from these limitations, some begin to impose these self-created limitations on God himself, and want God to abide by it. Here is where the problem arises. We have to realize that these people are victims of their own self-created boundaries and limitations.
Sin is nothing but that limits people and imprisons them in narrow limitations. When Jesus invited his followers to cut off the parts of their body that was causing sin, what he could have really meant was that they should come out of all sorts of self-limiting boundaries and free themselves.