The readings for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time remind me of 1 Samuel 17:7, in which Samuel was sent to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be king of Israel. The Lord told Jesse, “God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart.”
When it comes to making decisions about others, spend some time in prayer, seeking the Lord’s direction. There are so many decisions about family and work issues that make life challenging. If we make a quick and compulsive decision, we often regret it later.
Moses faces this in the first reading. Because the burden of governing the people was becoming too much for Moses alone, God told him to pick 72 wise men, upon whom God would pour out His spirit so that they could help.
When God poured out His spirit upon these men, 70 were in the meeting tent, but two of them, Eldad and Medad, weren’t in the tent itself, but they were in the camp. The spirit came to rest upon them also.
When Joshua heard that Eldad and Medad were prophesying, he quickly ran to Moses and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them.” But Moses answered, “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!”
Joshua was second in command to Moses. He had just received an outpouring of the spirit of God in his life, which set him apart from the average Israelite. However, he felt threatened when Eldad and Medad were prophesying, though they were not in the tent when the rest received the spirit of God.
How often do you and I feel jealousy when someone else is given an assignment or a promotion that we thought should be ours? This jealousy isn’t evil in itself, but is a weakness, and we need God’s help to handle it properly. In prayer, God will help us to deal with our own jealously. If, on the other hand, we give in to our compulsions, we will release in others a whole slew of compulsions that will come back to haunt us. We need God’s help to negotiate our compulsions.
In the second reading, James addresses the very rich who have ripped off the poor to afford for themselves a lavish lifestyle. He invites them to take a long look at their behavior and see themselves as God sees them so that their eyes might be opened. Thus, they might avoid the coming destruction when they pass on from this life.
In the Gospel, John, later known as the beloved disciple, comes to Jesus in panic. “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 at the same time speaks 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.’”
This is the same John, who with his brother James, wanted Jesus to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans so that Jesus could travel through Samaria. Yes, this same John, the beloved disciple, was the only apostle to stand at the foot of the cross at the crucifixion. What Jesus did for John, He wants to do for us.
Jesus suggests that the apostles open their eyes and look at people’s behavior so that they can see His kingdom unfolding in their midst.
Jesus had compassion, He had patience with those with whom He lived and worked. He gave them space to make their own decisions and then gave them feedback as to whether or not their decisions reflected the teachings of the Gospels.
There is a tendency on the part of some in authority to come down severely on their subjects, including grown children, but such an approach can sometimes make matters worse.
St. Augustine tells us, “If the balance between rigor and charity is lost in the administration of discipline, the peace of the Church is disturbed and disunity increased. Those who separate themselves from the body of Christ do not need to be corrected on all points but only those that involve separation.”
Yes, you and I often make quick judgments based upon external appearances of others instead of what is really going on in their hearts. For example, if we discover that we have strong negative feelings against others, we also will discover that we have negative feelings against ourselves at the same time.
Rather than turn against others or against ourselves, we ought to take a few moments of quiet prayer and simply thank Jesus that He makes us aware of our need for His help. Next, we need to visualize His presence, perhaps Him on the cross, and allow ourselves to take in this image. Then we need to simply say to Jesus, “Please take all these negative feelings against others away from me. I take them with my hands and hand them over to you. Instead, fill me with your feelings of compassion for this individual. Thank you Jesus for healing me.” Don’t be afraid to give yourself quality quiet time to do this, and results will come.