September 30, 2018
Jesus visits Peter at the Pearly Gates and asks how things are going. “Well,” says St. Peter, “I have a complaint. You know, Lord, I’m scrupulous about my job here. I interview each soul arriving at the Gate of Heaven, and I check to see if his or her name is written in the Book of Life. I turn away the people not worthy to enter heaven, but a little while later I turn around and I see those very people wandering around on the inside! I don’t get it! What’s going on?”
“Oh. That’s my mother for you,” replied Jesus. “Those people you turn away – she keeps letting them in through the back door.”
I will admit that when I was in high school I had the tendency to be quite competitive. Now, don’t get me wrong. Competition is not a bad thing. In fact, competition can help you up your own game. I was on the tennis team in high school, however, the competition that drove me was in the classroom. When I witnessed friends and classmates getting better grades than me, it made me furious. I was upset when I just fell out of my classes Top 10, because I thought the person in front of me took easy classes and did not challenge themselves nearly as much as I did. Where I sinned was in my wishes that people would fail so that I could be better. I was jealous. I was upset by those people that I thought had got in through the backdoor. While I was hoping to erect stumbling blocks for people, Jesus was there to ensure that I did not.
We have a couple of texts this morning where the characters are incited with jealousy!
First, in our reading from Numbers, the people are complaining. What else is new? However, this time, God tells Moses to invite the seventy elders to come to the Tent of Meeting. It is here that God bestows upon them the same Spirit that Moses had received. That is all except two of them, Eldad and Medad, that remained in the camp. The jealousy is stoked up in those that were present when they hear Eldad and Medad also received the same spirit, even though they were not in the Tent of Meeting with Moses and the rest of the elders.
In the gospel lesson from Mark, we witness the jealousy of Jesus’ disciples. How dare someone else be healing in Jesus’ name. Someone that is not part of their group. Jesus has been teaching the disciples to move more to the thoughts of God, and yet they still slip back into human thoughts. The thoughts of the worldly and worrying about their own egos and how they may look in the eyes of Jesus compared to this other person that is healing in the name of Jesus.
Jesus, in return, begins to rebuke their human thoughts. His words seem to be harsh and very much in your face. He is attempting to wake them from their stupor. To make them realize that they are not the only ones that can proclaim him as the Messiah, and in turn bringing healing to the sick and broken in his name. He reminds them of who they are in a brash way, that I am sure garnered their attention.
You would think that overtime we would finally catch on to what Jesus was teaching. Our egos do not seem to let us do so. Our egos pull us into the depth of ourselves and we are encouraged to worry about our own personal wellbeing at the expense of others. When we do decide to join with others, we tend to come together in common interest and then find those of differing opinion and looked negatively upon them. Our society is so split among lines today that we fail to find the humanity in the other person that has differing opinions.
We let our ego get in the way of reaching out in love and compassion. We erect stumbling blocks for others, hoping that they may fail and therefore move us ahead in whatever it may be that we are striving to reach.
If you recall the gospel lesson from last week, the disciples were arguing about who was the greatest among them. They wanted to make sure that they were sitting next to Jesus when it really counted. The person that is healing in Jesus’ name has thrown a wrench into their plan.
That is the problem. It is their plan, not Jesus’ plan. Jesus reminds them in his tough teaching that everyone will be salted with fire! Everyone will have that peace of God within them. It is in the salt that they bring flavor and preservation to a world that needs love and compassion. It is in the salt that life abounds joyfully. The salt brings out the true flavor of what it means to follow Jesus. Sharing in others joys as well as in their sorrows.
I will admit that being salted sounds funny. However, when something is not salted it is bland. Jesus does not want us to be bland. We are called to share in the good news of Jesus Christ and this requires us to be bold and flavorful.
Jesus is always lifting the children up as an example for all to follow. While young, children have not fully lived into their ego yet. They have yet to be fully pulled into the me-society, where they think everything needs to revolve around them. They are happy for one another and cheer each other on. When my son was younger, he competed in sport stacking. Which if you do not know what it is, you have 12 cups and you must see how fast you can stack them in various patterns. The joy on their faces and the joy they had for one another when setting personal bests or even rising to the top of the competition was incredible. They cheered each other on, even if it meant that they were now placed lower in the standings.
This is what Jesus wishes for us. It is an incredible example of exactly what Jesus is doing! He is standing in our corner and cheering us on. Each and everyone of us! It does not matter if we are part of the in group or following him. He is cheering us on, knocking down those stumbling blocks that others may place in front of us, and welcoming us into his loving embrace to experience life and to live it abundantly and full of flavor.
Let us pray. God of peace, you call us to be at peace with one another. May we continue to be guided by Jesus and be open to his teaching as we are pulled towards the reign of God. May your salt enhance and preserve us in our daily life. Amen.