Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

Twenty-Six Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today our meditation is on two important teachings: “ Whoever is not against us is for us,” and “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets.”

The first reading comes from Numbers 11: 16a, 17c, 25-29, the second, James 5: 1-6, and the Gospel from Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48.

In Numbers, Moses is promised helpers in the great vocation of preaching (prophesying). Seventy are anointed and they preached once, but did not do so again. This sounds strange. But another two, who were not there for the blessing, Eldad and Medad, did preach. And Joshua wanted to have Moses stop them, because they were not present when the spirit rested upon them. Moses said, no, they should be allowed to preach and “would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit in them.”

His disciples also wanted Jesus to stop someone from preaching in His name. Jesus said, “whoever is not against us is for us.” In fact, Jesus says that anyone who gives a cup of water to someone who believes in Jesus will not lose the reward. So, we too need to be open to all who preach Good News and minister to others in the name of Jesus.

And many times preaching “Good News” may not sound “good”. James lays it out clearly and simply: he addresses “rich” people, not just because they are rich, but in relation to how they treat people who are not rich, in fact, people who have helped make them rich. He is accusing the “rich” of extortion and stealing in order to become rich. “The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you have kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” And in the process of getting rich on the backs of the poor, “You have condemned and murdered the righteous one who does not resist you.”

The current state of affairs in our world pretty much resembles the world of James. Where should we begin? First of all, we need to listen to the voice of God no matter where it comes from. Anyone who stands with the poor and powerless and challenges the rich to be caring and sharing is a true prophet.

That means we need to be open to the political movements that are now advocating for an equal distribution of wealth in our country. We must respect those who are advocating for a “living wage” not just a minimum wage. We need to listen to environmental groups who show us how we have made Mother Earth our garbage dump and worse. We need to listen to advocates who not only preach against abortion, but also for support of single moms, poor moms and dads, anyone who is trying to nurture children with meager resources. We must not participate in the “abortion of the born” by forgetting the newborn.

And labor unions, so marginalized today, need to be supported and the rights of workers need to be protected. That is preaching “Good News.”

The prophets of social justice come from many places and backgrounds and we who follow Jesus must see them as “being for us.” And that includes the prophets who are speaking out about racial injustice and police brutality and against the ugly behavior of bigots and racists. Notice the person raising “hell” because that person may be a true prophet of the Lord God.

At the end of the wonderful encyclical by Pope Francis On Care For Our Common Home, he prays: “Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out.   O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty. Praise be to you!”