Year B- 26th Sunday in ordinary time
The reality of HellMark 9:37-42, 44, 46-47
Mark 9:37-42, 44, 46-47
Author: Joseph of Jesus and Mary
In todays readings the voice of Moses echoes throughout, Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his Spirit on them all! And Moses prayer is taken up by the Church, who reminds us all that, by our baptism, Moses prayer is realized. For we are all baptized as prophets, as those who are called to be Gods voice in the world, to be his witnesses unto the ends of the earth.
You might say, The prophet is in. And just like the Doctor, who is in, we who are prophets, have some protocols to observe. Lets observe some of our protocols.
I. The Point of a Prophet the Gospel opens with John expressing concern that some one, not of their company, was expelling demons. John says, We tried to prevent him
Say what? They tried to prevent some one from casting out demons? Whats wrong with this picture? The whole point of being a prophet is to rescue souls from the grip of demons like: ignorance, fear, darkness, sin, and confusion, and to bring them to Jesus!
Rule one for prophets, when some one is successfully delivering souls from the Devils grasp rejoice, pray, support, and learn, but DONT prevent! We human beings have a common enemy, the devil, and we need to rescue souls from his grip. To use a football image, there is no such thing as a prevent offense. The whole point is to drive out demons.
To this complete disconnect from the point of being a prophet, Jesus says, simply, dont prevent him! So the point is, dont miss the point! Dont prevent! You get the point?
John seems concerned because the exorcist in question is not of our company. Are he and the others perhaps jealous?
But here too the point is being missed. The point of the prophet is not himself, or his own glory and prominence. The point for the prophet is to be about Gods glory, not his own glory.
Nothing can be so deadly to the work of a prophet as for the work to become about personal glory and recognition, rather than Gods glory. Talk about missing the point!
An old songs says, More, more about Jesus. More of his saving fulness see, more of his love who died for me. Another songs says, Dont exalt the preacher, dont exalt the pew, preach the Gospel, simple, full and free. Preach him, and you will find the promise is true Ill draw all men unto me.
Yes the Lord is the point. Deliverance is the point. The prophet is not the point.
And if the prophet is in, like the doctor is in, imagine a doctor who did not want anyone to be healed except by him. Imagine that he refused to refer patients to other experts who were not of his practice. What kind of a doctor is that? He is a bad doctor, a doctor who cares only for himself and his own money and glory. But the point of being a doctor is not to care for yourself, but to care for others.
And if the prophet is going to be in, he or she is going to need to realize that the point is not himself, it is healing, and it is the Lord. And the Lord does not give any one person all the gifts. A good prophet understands the point of it all and is willing to refer.
And that leads us to protocol two.
II. The partnership of the prophet. In an easily overlooked section of the text, Jesus says, Anyone who gives you a cup of cold water, because you belong to Christ, will surely not lose his reward. Now recall here, that Jesus is speaking to the Apostles, and he is teaching them in effect, that theyre going to need a cup of cold water. In other words, theyre not self-sufficient, they are going to need help.
Simply put, prophets need partners. I do not have all the gifts. You do not have all the gifts. But together, we have all the gifts. On a Sunday morning, I, as priest and celebrant, there are certain things that only I can do. To this extent, the congregation needs me.
But, in particular, when it comes to being a prophet, and office we all share by baptism, I am not alone. And I cannot be alone in this task. I do not personally sit at everyones dinner table, I do not know everyones children, their grandchildren, their family or friends. I simply cannot, all by myself, reach all the people Gods people can and must reach.
And even within the liturgy, I do not have all the gifts. I may preach with words, but the choir can put a song in peoples hearts, and minister the Word to them in ways often more wonderful and effective. Lectors, and Deacons, as well as the choir are necessary partners in prophetically proclaiming Gods word.
Whatever my gifts, or theirs, none of us alone have all the gifts. But together we have all the gifts that God intends for us.
And if the prophet is in, like the doctor is in, then consider again an analogy from the medical world. All doctors have a certain general medical knowledge. But, that being said, they do not have all medical knowledge. They depend on each other for the expertise of the other. They work together as a team, relying on one anothers expertise, and gifts. Some are good at diagnosing, others are experts in the area of cancer. Still others are surgeons or endocrinologists, or orthopedics. That Doctor would be a foolish doctor who never turned to other doctors to benefit from their knowledge, gifts, and expertise.
And so it is with prophets. We must learn that we do not have all the gifts, that we have many needs which others can help complete. We all need a cup of cold water, and all the help that that it symbolizes, from others who are in with us in this work of being prophets.
The profit is in, but he cannot be in all by himself. he must be part of a team, just like doctors who are in apart of a team, or group practice.
III. The practice of the prophets. Just like doctors have what we call a practice, so too prophets. And the heart of the ministry, (the practice) of the biblical prophets was to call Gods people to repent from their sins, and base their lives wholeheartedly on God, who alone could save them. This is the practice of a prophet.
Jesus in the clear tradition of the prophets began his ministry with the cry, Repent and believe the good news!
Note the balance between the bad news, and the good news. Just like any doctor, who knows the ravages of disease and seeks to warn people to stay away from unhealthy practices, Jesus (and every prophet) cries out Repent! from the disease of sin.
But doctors do not warn of disease and unhealthy practices to discourage people, but, rather to draw them to seek help and be serious about health and well being. And so it is with prophets who must often speak powerfully of the disease of sin. They do not do this to discourage, but, rather, to draw people to salvation and healing.
No true prophet, can avoid this proper balance. The good news of healing only makes sense, in the light of the bad news of sin. The good news of healing can only come when the bad news of sin is dealt with by Gods grace.
There are some today who seek to silence prophets in terms of the call to repent. Some, even in the Church, want only to accentuate the positive and scold those who speak openly of sin and the need to repent. Honey not vinegar! is their cry.
But again, the analogy with the doctor is helpful. What would we think of the doctor who, when people come to him was serious, even deadly conditions, never spoke to them of these things, but always said to them You are fine! What would we think? We would think of this doctor as a bad doctor, even guilty of malpractice. For the heart of a doctors work, his practice, is to be sober and serious about the reality of disease. A good doctor must speak clearly and honestly with his patients about what ails them, and point them to curative and healing medicines.
It is the same with prophets who must take sin seriously, be sober about it, and speak honestly and clearly to Gods people about the reality of it. They must also, earnestly, and with love draw people to the medicine of the sacraments, to the power of prayer and praise, the study of Gods Word, and to the Lord who alone can ultimately heal them.
We see Jesus at work in the practice of a prophet in todays Gospel. Observe that he speaks very provocatively and was great sobriety about how serious, how deadly serious sin is. He says, regarding those who would lead others into sin, that would be better for them if a great millstone were put around their neck and they be thrown into the sea! So serious is sin, that if our hand is the cause of our sin we should cut it off, if our eye, we should gouge it out! And while the Lord uses hyperbole here, the point is this, that it is more serious to sin than to lose our hand or foot or eye. Indeed, it would be better to lose our life altogether than to be the cause of anothers sin.
Now we dont think like this. Most of us make light of sin. We are somewhat like a patient in the doctors office who thinks of himself as a few pounds overweight. But in reality he is in category Obesity 3. And yet he says to the doctor, But doctor, I eat like a bird! Yes, he eats like a bird, all day long, all night long too!
Doctors deal with the sick all day long as well. And so do prophets. The Lord in this gospel is strong, and unambiguous about sin, about how awful it is, about how deadly. But as a prophet, who does not have a purpose to discourage, he says this only to encourage us, and summon us to sobriety about sin and zeal for the Gospel, wherein we are promised total victory over sin, total victory over the Devils holds in our life.
People who are well do not need a doctor. Surely the Lord came to call sinners. And the first stage of our healing, is to admit youre sick and answer the call that, the doctor, the Prophet, is in. And then he can go to work. An old song says, I got it bad and that aint good. But the good news is, there is a doctor in the house.
So, the practice of a prophet is a balanced one. In a sentence, Repent! And believe the good news!
IV. The prayer of the prophet. - And finally, we return to where we began, the prayer of Moses, Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his Spirit on them all! And here is the prayer of every true prophet: not that he be alone, not that he have all the glory. But rather, that all Gods people be gifted, and take their rightful role in proclaiming God to this world; that all the gifts necessary for the Church be operative, and fully functioning. Gifts for the clergy, gifts for the laity. No competition for glory, no competition for praise. But rather, partnership and mutual appreciation that the task of prophecy is a task for us all.
Theres a song that says, You should be a witness! Why dont you testify? Stand up and be a witness for the Lord! Another song says, I thought I wasnt gonna to testify, but I couldnt keep it to myself, what the Lord has done for me!
Yes, heres every prophets prayer, every priests prayer, that all Gods people who stand up and testify, and be profits to this world, so much in need of Gods word. The prophet is in, and will see you now.