Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 25, 2021
St. Michael Catholic Church
Bedford, Texas

Numbers 11:25-29
Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14
Daniel 10:10-21
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

The book of Numbers recalls how God bestowed the gift of prophecy on 70 elders of Israel, or at least on 68 of them as Medad and Eldad were busy outside of camp. These elders were appointed by God at Moses’ request to assist Moses in his work as leader, however Joshua was upset and jealous at God’s generosity.

Joshua misunderstands service and prophecy to be a matter of elitism and entitlement. Moses reassures Joshua that this is not an insult to him but a gift from God to the community. Seventy people filled with the power of God can do much more than one because only the Holy Spirit can bring about true unity. Moses is fully aware that God’s grace is not and cannot be limited. The Holy Spirit goes where it will as Saint Paul reminds us, and our part is to pay humble attention, to recognize, and to respond generously to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

A similar situation is shown in the reading from today’s Gospel with the jealousy of the disciples and Jesus’ response to them, “‘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.’”

A view of the new sanctuary at St. Michael Church in Bedford. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

What we learn from these readings is that humility and reverence before God is at the heart of authentic Christian worship and ministry. On the contrary, it is those who adopt an attitude of elitism and presumption in the face of God who threaten with evil the weak and the humble, the weakest and most vulnerable among us — the children and those people who are most in need. Such elite are deceived to see God as an adversary. The reading from the Book of Daniel reveals to us that it is the Lord our God who sends Michael, the Prince of the Heavenly Host to protect and defend God’s chosen people, the New Israel from the attack of Lucifer, the devil. The name “Michael” is translated literally as a question: “Who is like unto God?” This is the question that Michael, the Archangel, asked of the Truth when Lucifer in his jealously of God, boastfully lied and claimed to be like unto God when he and his subordinate angels raged in rebellion.

It is this humility of a question asked of the Truth — God Himself — that is the force of Saint Michael that cast into Hell, Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Today we ask the intercession of your parish patron, our patron, Saint Michael, to protect us from evil by keeping us honest and close to the Truth who is God Himself so that we never are deceived to see God as an adversary to our freedom and happiness. As we bless this new tabernacle and these statues in this renewed sanctuary, may Christ renew us as His Church, with love for God, many sound and holy marriages, and many priestly and religious vocations. If we spend time with Christ in prayer here before His tabernacle, if we worship God reverently through the Sacrifice of the Mass, if we ask Saint Michael’s protection from our becoming enamored by evil, then, in God’s grace, we will be able to pray honestly with the Church the Psalm that we proclaimed minutes ago: “The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart!”

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