Sunday Sermon for September 26, 2021, the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Num 11:25-29; Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43; 45, 47-48
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us that if our hand or foot causes us to sin, cut it off; if our eye causes us to sin, pluck it out. Obviously, our hand, foot, or eye cannot be the cause of our sin. We can use our hands, feet, or eyes to sin, but that means they are only an instrumental cause of our sin. In the Gospel four weeks ago, our Lord told us it is what comes from within, from the heart that defiles us. So, the desire and the intent to do evil comes from our will.
The point our Lord is making is that we must rid ourselves of whatever is keeping us away from union with Him. Ultimately, only selfishness can cause this, but that selfishness manifests itself in so many ways that we have to examine our conscience to discern how that selfishness is expressed in our life. The biggest problem, considering that it is selfishness, is that we all too often like the sin and, although we will admit it is wrong and even say we wish it was gone, the deeper truth is that we do not want to rid ourselves of our selfishness.
In the readings today, we have several examples of how this selfishness manifests itself. In the first reading Joshua wants Moses to stop the two men from prophesying because they were not with the larger group who had received a portion of the Spirit God had given to Moses. Moses asks Joshua if he is jealous for him. Moses demonstrates his humility and charity by wishing that all the people of Israel were prophets. Like Moses, we need charity and humility to root out the vices associated with jealousy and envy (and any other form of pride).
In the second reading St. James speaks to those who have been very selfish in the way they have horded their wealth. We must be clear, that by itself, there is nothing inherently wrong with wealth, money, or most material possessions. However, if we refuse to use the blessings God has bestowed upon us for the good of others, we will have to answer for that. We can see this easily in the spiritual gifts God has given us because it is very clear that these were given for us to use for the good of others. Sometimes it is more difficult to see when material wealth is given to us because it does not have the same spiritual qualities as the various charisms.
However, whatever God has given, it is necessary that we use those gifts for His glory and the good of other. There is no problem using those same gifts for our benefit and that of our family, but God is looking for the charity and generosity which must come from within. Perhaps we have become too attached to the things of this world. If so, how can we be free to enter into the next world? Perhaps we are putting too much value on material things. Certainly, these things have value, but if we are making them too important in our lives, we are not able to raise our hearts to the Lord because they are chained to something of earth.
In such cases, we would be looking at attachments, greed, materialism, perhaps self-aggrandizement, arrogance, lacking charity, and probably a number of other related sins that need to be purged. Living in a very wealthy society as we do, it is easy to accumulate and it can be very difficult to detach. We need to pray for the virtues we need, but we also need to pray against the vices we see within ourselves. The only way we are going to be willing to let go of something we like is by making a change in our interior disposition.
With this in mind, if we want to be more generous or kind, pray for charity. If we are placing too much importance on something or someone, we need to pray for detachment. If we do this daily, or even more as we see ourselves giving into the sin or being tempted to do so, we will find that within a few weeks we will have a very different disposition.
The Lord makes clear that some of our selfishness and sinfulness could keep us from getting into Heaven. Please keep in mind that everything, absolutely everything will be left behind when we die. Second, there is nothing and no one who is worth losing Heaven over. If there is something in your life that is keeping you from drawing closer to God or loving Him more, cut it out of your life so you will have the freedom to love God with your whole heart.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.