Daily Reflection
October 1st, 2000
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Numbers 11:25-29
Psalms 19:8, 10, 12-14
James 5:1-6
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Moses is having a bad time of it here in the First Reading today.  He has led God’s people out into the desert and they are left low and dry and quite hungry.  They are complaining and so Moses picks up the theme and questions God’s care for them all.

What we hear today is God sending down some of the spirit that is upon Moses, but for a special purpose.  The spirit will be given to seventy of the elders so that they can help Moses carry the burden of the complaining people.  There are two elders who have remained in the camp and have not been with the other sixty-eight who have been endowed with this prophetic spirit.  The question arises about whether they belong to the spirited-group, because they had remained in the camp. 

The prophetic work for the whole group is to encourage faith and trust in the God who has called them out of slavery and into the desert of want.  God has made promises, but to the people, it appears those promises were beyond their hoping.

Mark’s Gospel continues this theme of trusting and belonging.  Can somebody, not on the first-team of Jesus, do “Christ-done deeds?”  Jesus’ person and mission are extended into this world by anyone who is with Him, doing the prophetic work of encouraging trust in the God Who calls.  Those who lead the simple trusting believers into discouragement do not belong to the Jesus camp.  As a hand or eye can cause a person to lose trust in God’s care by greedily reaching for that which is not being given, but taken anyway, so anyone who works against God’s kingdom, will live out his or her separation forever apart from God. 

It is not the “eye” or “foot” or “hand” which are the problem, it is the hungry heart that longs for completion.  The eye sees someone or something, which the heart decides will be the ultimate satisfaction.  The hand reaches for that someone or something and the feet help walk away with that someone or something, but the quest for completion will remain unslaked.  The people complained, because they hungered and they were encouraged to wait for the promises to be fulfilled.  We hunger, thirst for, lust after, grab for, walk off with and indulge our hungers in what fails to satisfy, but the heart keeps seeking. 

The mission of Jesus and those of His camp is to encourage us hungry believers to keep on being faithful to our deserts and God’s faithfulness.  We are on Christ’s first-team when we continue extending His encouraging word and touch to our fellow desert-dwellers in their journey of waiting faithfully.  Our real problem in trusting God is our impatience.  The people of Moses’ camp were hungry and they wanted something to eat, right now!  God will be sending more quails than they can ever eat, so much that they will grow sick of eating them.  The people have to trust and trusting takes time and time takes patience and patience takes time and on and on.  Grumbling can be a prayer, but when it turns into grabbing and grasping in defiant gestures of discouragement, then we are separating ourselves from His camp and beginning to belong, more and more, to our own camp.  This separation is the “cutting off” of which Jesus speaks today.

The spirit, which God shares with the elders, is the spirit of carrying a burden.  Each of us is baptized into God’s Spirit which encourages us to live the burdens of our own lives and to encourage and assist the carrying of the burdens of our sisters and brothers.  We belong and they belong and Christ has grasped us all into His camp.  We experience deserts and waiting and times of discouragement; this is all part of being faithful.  The quails will be arriving in God’s good time.  Our good time is spent in being encouraged and encouraging.

“O Lord, remember the words you spoke to me, your servant, which made me live in hope and consoled me when I was downcast.”

 Psalm 119
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