Sep 24, 2015

26th Sunday - Who's on our side?

Numbers 11: 25-29
James 5: 1-6
Mark 9: 38-43, 45,47-48

The ever present question about who's in and who's out begs an answer in this weekend's readings.  The Book of Numbers find Joshua angered by the fact that Eldad and Medad have received a portion of the Spirit bestowed on Joshua.  They had left the camp yet: ". . . the Spirit came to rest on them also and they prophesied in the camp." (Nm 11: 27).  "How dare they!" cried Joshua to Moses, "Stop them!"  Moses answer to Joshua: "Are you jealous? . . . would that all people of the Lord were prophets." 

Moses inclusive perspective does not see a limit to God's intent. As Jesus in the Gospel who reminds his own Apostles: "There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name, who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us." (Mk 9: 43).  Who's in and who's out seems to have its own roots long ago.  To exclude or to include in our lives as Christians seems to have only one answer; that of Jesus who reached out to invite and include all to salvation.  Christ is the invitation of God to see our lives differently; free of boundaries in regards to God's love and mercy - and to live in the world with that face.  

In light of Pope Francis visit to America this past week we have much to ponder and much to rejoice.  Maybe we also have much to challenge us, our own preconceived ideas of inclusion and exclusion.  This is a Gospel which reaches over the walls of politics, nationality, race, language, gender and economic status.  

Our Holy Father came not to take sides with any political party - if we think that, then we, not him, are too political - but to unite and present goals for us on which to work together - not just the rich with the rich, or the intelligent and learned with those of the same, or white with white, black with black, or similar political parties, or those of the same language.  As God has invited us so we must extend the same invitation to others. It is a vision of culture and human relationships that is not based in politics, of which we have too much, but united in the values which form our lives from the Gospel of Christ. Who's in - everyone is in. As Pope Francis is our moral and spiritual leader - Jesus and Peter among us - so must the face of the Catholic Church be the same. 

It seems these days who else but our Holy Father Pope Francis could have woven together the themes of freedom, justice, care for the poor and marginalized, openness to God, prayer and contemplation as moral values as worthy of our efforts to promote the common good as American citizens and Christians.  His chosen figures of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were used in a way to inspire us and challenge us.  

The Pope's obvious care for God's creation and our common responsibility to be good stewards along with upholding the inherent dignity of every human person in all stages of development was deeply moving.  His support to abolish the death penalty, a personal concern of mine and many others, was a great challenge to us all.  

Seems to me in his compassionate and charismatic manner Pope Francis is both calling us to live out the Gospel and in particular the "Corporal Works of mercy" so beautifully codified into what is called the Principles of Catholic Social teaching.  

Below is that beautiful scriptural image and it only invites us to rise above politics, and to be truly Christian and Catholic:

Matthew 25: 31-40 

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
The the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and your welcomed me, naked and you clothed me ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me . . .
The king will say to them in reply, 'amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least ones, you did for me . . .

To feed, clothe, welcome, give drink, and visit the imprisoned are all about the human person, the "corporal" works of mercy.  Sound like Pope Francis?  Of course the Church and our Faith is about much more but this sense of reaching out and to embrace our mission - faith in action - is faith applied and made visible.  What part of creation is more precious and inherently dignified than the human person?  Jesus didn't just bask in the sun on the shores of the Sea of Galilee or remain a tradesman in his hometown of Nazareth. He lived out the Father's mission of salvation for all humanity and welcomed everyone into his circle of love and mercy. This is what we as Church and God's people need to look like.   

Below are listed the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching.  If they sound like Pope Francis, you're right. For he isn't left or right, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative.  He is Catholic and this is the Church at it's finest when it touches our lives both personal and corporal.  Below are those Gospel based principles that Jesus himself called us to live as he taught and behaved in our midst.  He payed the ultimate price for doing so with his own life - and then rose three days later as he became Lord and Savior: 

1. Respect for the Human Person

2. Promote the Family

3. Protect Property Rights

4. Work for the Common Good

5. Observe the Principle of Subsidiarity

6. Respect Work and the Worker

7. Pursue Peace and Care for the Poor

Google  the Principles of Catholic Social Teaching and you will find these points fleshed out. You will hear the voice of our Holy Father in the same. So the same for the names of Dorothy Day or Thomas Merton to learn more. So much here to reflect on. 

O God, who manifest your almighty power
above all by pardoning and showing mercy,
bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us
and make those hastening to attain your promises
heirs to the treasures of heaven. 

(Collect of Sunday)