Sept. 30, 2012
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Numbers 11:25-29
James 5:1-6
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Hardly a weekend passes without someone ringing my doorbell and asking if I am saved. There is no point in telling them I am Catholic, because they do not believe that I have a chance at salvation unless I am born again and part of their faith community. As much as I want to move these missionaries right along, I realize that if I believed that individuals had to be Catholic to be saved, I would probably be knocking on doors too.  

The First Reading and the Gospel present a similar situation. Eldad and Medad were prophesying and Joshua objected. Moses, though, responded with true generosity: “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!” The disciples in today’s Gospel react in the same way when they discover someone who is not a disciple of Jesus casting out evil spirits. They believe that only they should be able to act in Jesus’ name and Jesus’ answer is very like that of Moses.

We still struggle with some of those feelings. It has taken us a long time to come to a greater realization that all God’s followers have the power to bring others to him. The understanding of ecumenism and interfaith relationships that has grown out of Vatican II has disabused most of us, of a sense of exclusivity that deprives other believers of salvation. Fifty years of dialogue and relationship have taught us more and more about the truth that we share. We have discovered the great amount of good others do. We have learned of their compassion. We have also discovered that just because people call themselves Catholic or Christian, it is no guarantee that they are doing God’s work. And, quite honestly, many of those who never cite their faith truly live that faith. What is of the greatest relevance is whether we Christians are really doing God’s work. Just calling ourselves Christian is no guarantee that we are. Just because we know the right words does not mean that we are living our faith.

The “little ones” in today’s Gospel refers not to those of lesser age but to those of a lesser social status. Jesus tells the disciples that anyone who prevents others from coming closer to God is committing a serious offense. This is the counsel that makes us ask whether or not someone would want to be Catholic because they know us.

The Gospel tells us that we have to see that God works through all sorts of believers. We would wish that all would witness to God’s work in the world. The Letter of St. James reminds us that our actions toward others proclaim the love that we have.  

None of us is well equipped to make a judgment about another individual’s relationship to God. Certainly membership in a specific faith community is no guarantee of intimacy with the Lord. Each of us knows, though, who Christ is to us and we gather at this Eucharist to announce that he is Lord.