Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Today’s readings call us to examine the motives behind our actions, especially those that lead us away from God and towards sin. Not only looking at what obstacles keep us from growing spiritually but also when we are a stumbling block to the growth of other people’s faith by way of:
- Being unjust in our judgment of others;
- Showing partiality;
- Exhibitions of greed or entitlement (and not only with regards to money or goods);
- Allowing our pride to cloud or color our decisions.
Are we capable of judging the behavior or action, and not the person, and doing so always with kindness? Is our primary motive always the care and well-being of that person without bias or superiority? As we’ve seen in the past weeks’ readings, being a Pharisee can be a dangerous mindset and detrimental to our faith journey.
Do we believe the only good accomplished in the world originates from us? Do we count our blessings for how the Holy Spirit moves us to worship and find ways to welcome and invite others?
As I began my steps back into the Catholic Church, I experienced difficulty assimilating myself into parish life. My requests to help in established ministry groups were often dismissed, and my ideas rebuffed. I heard a lot of “that’s not how we do it here.” And I wasn’t the only one who experienced this resistance. These women who dismissed me and others became, in some instances, stumbling blocks to the blossoming of others’ spiritual development. They were not mean-spirited, maybe overprotective; regardless, they missed a beautiful opportunity to be ambassadors for Christ.
Psalm 19:8-14 speaks to the unwitting ways we, like the women’s group, block God’s blessings, “Yet who can detect failings? Cleanse me from my unknown faults!” How often am I unaware of my Pharisaical thoughts? Thoughts which play right into the enemy’s hands to divide and separate God’s people? Do I become the catalyst to its end, a response even worse than the foolish men who looked for Moses and Jesus to put a stop to the unwanted evangelistic behavior?
If we have been holding back hospitality in our parish ministry or apostolates, we will do well to heed Moses’ response. “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” Through our Baptism, we have all been commissioned to know, love, and serve the Lord. With a heart of collaboration and rooting ourselves in prayer, what wonders we can do together to spread and live the Good News.
On September 11th, I scanned my newsfeed for stories commemorating the twentieth anniversary of that horrific day. One post included this poignant assertion by a priest concerning the attendance of his church’s 9/11 prayer service, “There are far fewer people here today to pray than in years past because sadly, there are far fewer people praying at all.”
Lack of prayer cultivates into various stumbling blocks in our lives and impacts, more than anything else, the motivations behind our actions. Moses’s prayers were always directed toward others. Jesus’s entire life was dedicated to the salvation of humankind. How will we live out our faith and call in our life? What obstacles do we put unknowingly or unconsciously in front of others? More importantly, how can we remove those and be prophets, authentic witnesses of the love of God to others?