"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Sept. 30: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Numbers 11:25-29
Overview: A prophet is not a fortune teller, but someone who is able to read the signs of the times in the light of God’s word. In the first reading, 70 elders had been appointed by Moses to assist him in guiding, governing and teaching the people. Each of them was given a share of the Spirit that was initially given to Moses. But two chosen men, Eldad and Medad, even though they weren’t present, also received the Spirit and proclaimed God’s word. Rather than quenching the Spirit by forbidding them to speak, Moses praises God for having bestowed his gifts on them. This incident foreshadows the event in this week’s Gospel where certain people proclaimed the good news even though they weren’t part of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples.
In the second reading, James chastises the rich members of the Church for their greed and exploitation of the poor. He exhorts them to be just with their employees, for if they do not, he warns them, the corruption of their wealth will “devour your flesh like a fire.”
Echoing the first reading, the Gospel shows how even those who did not belong to the Twelve were also given a share of the Spirit to perform “mighty deeds” in the name of Christ. It is worth noting that this reading immediately follows Jesus’ teachings about the “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 9:33-37). The point of this week’s Gospel is that sometimes even the “littlest ones” and those who aren’t members of the Catholic Church sometimes do good works and speak the truth of God.
Key verse: “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!” (Num 11:29)
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “‘The holy people of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office,’ above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to the whole people, lay and clergy, when it ‘unfailingly adheres to this faith … once for all delivered to the saints,’ and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ's witness in the midst of this world” (No. 785).
Pope Benedict XVI: “Bring the love of Christ to everyone! How? By turning unreservedly to God the Father, who is the measure of everything that is right, true and good. Meditate on God’s word! Discover how relevant and real the Gospel can be. Pray! Prayer and the sacraments are the sure and effective means to be a Christian and to live “rooted and built up in Christ, and established in the faith (Col 2:7)” (Address to Young People, Lebanon, Sept. 15).
Life application: All the people of God, clergy and laity together, share in the prophetic ministry of Christ so they can proclaim the Gospel wherever they are, according to their particular state in life. Jesus’ advice to his disciples is instructive for us in light of our relationship with non-Catholics: “Whoever is not against us is for us.” The Gospel reminds us that even though someone doesn’t belong to the Catholic Church, he or she can still speak the truth. We should make common-cause with those who though not yet belonging to the Catholic Church nevertheless share our values and are willing to work together for the common good and the unity of Christ’s Church.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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