Every Monday I volunteer at the OASIS Centre which is a part of Pastoral Services at St. Paul University. I greet people and am a welcoming presence. I get to spend some time with students, staff, and professors; and experience the rich diversity from all corners of the world and a wide variety of faiths. And just like you and me they all believe in God and they are all searching for truth and life.
Last year I met a Muslim woman who had raised her family and was pursuing a career. Each week we would make space in our morning to spend a little time with each other – we talked and shared our stories. One day she hugged me and said “we are sisters you and I – we are sisters”. I have not seen her this year but I treasure my memories of being with her.
Today our readings speak of sharing the various gifts that we are given – whether they be goods, whether they be our spirit, whether they be the gift of our very lives.
In the book of Numbers we are introduced to two men who are not quite the same as the other elders. They don’t follow the same rituals and yet they are prophets who must be allowed to speak and they must be listened to. Gerald Darring in his Perspective of Justice reminds us how Vatican II declared that the Church is a ‘universal sacrament of salvation’ and explains “The people of God – [you and I] – are a sign to the whole world announcing its salvation”. He goes on to say that the priestly function of this “people is to mediate salvation; its prophetic function is to announce salvation to the world through its sanctifying presence in the world.” Not just a job for our leaders, or for our pastor or for ‘someone else.’ “…all sons and daughters of the Church should foster within themselves a true catholic spirit and spend their energies in the work of evangelization.” I think of my sister last year who though not a Catholic, took part in my ongoing evangelization and salvation.
This week John Shea’s writings on Mark’s Gospel suggest that there is within the apostles and within us a “deeply ingrained drive to be great – to be really great – better than all the others; and that it is there below the level of consciousness – it colours everything we do; how we see – how we react and how we respond.” He said it ‘invades our perception’; it infiltrates, inflates and puffs up, affecting everything. And perhaps when the apostles saw someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name that it was, somehow, a threat to them. Shea suggested that they might have wondered if ‘someone was poaching in their territory and that their consciousness was so competitive that they did not even see the ones from whom the demons were cast out’.
I stop to look and see what that might look like in our own lives – when a new boss has different ideas or a new team member from another department is viewed with suspicion; it happens in families and it happens in school with new students joining classes. Even here in our community when someone joins with a new way to minister – different from our old ways. With all of these we run the risk excluding others, of not seeing the truth, the goodness – in others or in ourselves.
Last weekend we were reminded that we are all disciples; and not to become too attached to our privileges nor too fearful of our vulnerabilities, but to welcome and – to accept welcome from each other.
“Cervantes – the Spanish novelist once said, ‘Many are the roads by which God carries his own to heaven.’ William Barclay follows that saying: ‘The world is round, and two people can get to precisely the same destination by starting out in precisely opposite directions. All roads, if we pursue them long enough and far enough, lead to God.”
I think of my Muslim sister–.she started out from one direction and I from another – and how we met on the way – our destination God. Our friendship, our sisterhood like a bridge spanning the space between us.
First Reading: Numbers 11:25-29
Second Reading: James 5:1-6
Gospel: Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
William Barclay – The New Daily Study Bible – The Gospel of Mark
Gerald Darring – The Perspective of Justice Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
John Shea – Eating With The Bridegroom – The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers