National Seafarer’s Sunday
First reading: Nm. 11:25–29
The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.
Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; yet the spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp. So, when a young man quickly told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my lord, stop them.” But Moses answered him, “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!”
Second reading: Jas. 5:1–6
Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.
Gospel: Mk. 9:38–43, 45, 47–48
At that time, John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. 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. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
In other words Fr. Antonio Pernia, SVD (Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies, Tagaytay City)
Not competition but collaboration. That is what God’s Kingdom wants to bring about among God’s people. That is how God’s Kingdom will come about among God’s people.
This seems to be the message of the readings today. In the first reading from the Book of Numbers, two men who did not belong to the seventy elders on whom the spirit of Moses was bestowed, prophesied in the camp. Joshua, Moses’ disciple, begged his master to stop them. Moses responded, “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the people of the Lord were prophets!” Similarly, in the Gospel reading, someone who was not among Jesus’ disciples was driving out demons in Jesus’ name. John, Jesus’ disciple, tried to prevent him from doing so. Jesus responded, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.”
The message of both episodes is clear. Whoever does good, regardless of whether or not he or she belongs to our company, is endowed with God’s spirit and is a disciple of Jesus. For, as Jesus puts it, “whoever is not against us is for us.” Ultimately, what matters for God’s Kingdom is not WHO does the good but that the GOOD is DONE. Discipleship for God’s Kingdom is not a matter of religious affiliation and loyalty, or cultural background and origin, or social standing and belonging. It is a matter of doing God’s will, putting his Kingdom into practice, doing the works of justice, peace, and love.
This is an important reminder for us, Christians, who sometimes are suspicious or dismissive of the good that non-Christians do. It is a call for us, Christians, to be open, welcoming, and appreciative of people who belong to different religions or no religion at all, to different cultures and races, to different socio-economic classes. They are not necessarily inferior to us in terms of their commitment to what we call the values of the Kingdom of God if they do not recognize them as such. Many of them do good deeds in favor of their fellow men and women. With them, we are called to collaborate and not compete in working for God’s Kingdom.
Today’s Gospel is clear: the people who do good, regardless of religious or cultural affiliation, should not be stopped. Instead, the people who should be stopped are those who do evil and lead others to sin. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”