Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 27, 2009 

Reading 1
Nm 11:25-29

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad,
were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp.
They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent;
yet the spirit came to rest on them also,
and they prophesied in the camp.
So, when a young man quickly told Moses,
"Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, "
Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’aide, said,
"Moses, my lord, stop them."
But Moses answered him,
"Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!"

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14

R. (9a)  The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
the decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
Though your servant is careful of them,
very diligent in keeping them,
Yet who can detect failings?
Cleanse me from my unknown faults!
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
From wanton sin especially, restrain your servant;
let it not rule over me.
Then shall I be blameless and innocent
of serious sin.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

Reading II
Jas 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days.
Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.

Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

At that time, John said to Jesus, "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.

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'"


The 73-year-old fathered seven children with his daughter while he kept her locked in a cellar for 24 years, one of whom he admitted having murdered by neglect. In March, an Austrian jury sentenced him to life in prison and ordered him to be detained interned at a secure psychiatric institution. He was found guilty of all charges against him, including rape, incest, murder and enslavement of his own daughter and other children born to her through him.

This man  has already created hell for himself, and it would be difficult for him unless an extraordinary divine intervention helps him to repent and get back to God with lots of penance and works of mercy towards others. He has been the centre of discussion and analysis by psychologists and sociologist for a very long time now. Let God judge him.

A hundred online pedophile communities will be disconnected and prosecuted by U.S. and Italian authorities thanks to the work of the Meter Association, founded by Italian Father Fortunato Di Noto in this month all over the world.

ZENIT learned from the association that the networks consisted of some 18,181 people who used online community Web sites to host and exchange "thousands of images and video footage - 27,894 pedophiliac photos and 1,617 videos - as well as information regarding the trade of minors."

The news was further publicized by Rome's Italian police force, in cooperation with other security forces.

"Thousands of children were involved," the association added.

Father Di Noto, a native of Sicily, explained that with the aid of a team of volunteers, Meter discovered "a universe that is not virtual, but real, in which people can register and exchange pornographic material of minors -- photos, videos, even dates with minors -- through one of the most well known social networks in the United States."

The association stated that "investigators both in Italy and in the United States termed the uncovered material an 'authentic horror,' with newborns and children of a very young age as the objects of violence and sexual abuse." 

What scandals have you heard about in the past two months? How did they affect you?

Scandals, like gossip, create news, headlines, and the patter of talk shows. Politicians and entertainers cause the public concern with their dress, their lifestyle, or their secrets. Indeed, scandal not only drives public opinion. It can increase profits for media and visibility for publicity-hungry.

When it comes to the Church, scandal multiplies problems. Not only does the community lose faith, the community loses face with potential following. Church scandal also gives those who oppose the faith reason for persecution. But, what happens when the scandal within the Church is caused by the good of non-Christians?

In Mark's gospel, Jesus addressed both issues. Scandals caused by good. Scandals caused by evil.

The disciples were scandalized by an outsider curing in Jesus' name. To the Jew of Jesus' time, a name revealed the power and purpose of the person; to invoke the name of Jesus meant to tap into his healing power. But use of the name had a price; to use a name meant the one invoking it had a relationship to the person, the power, and the movement the name represented. On these grounds, John objects to the outsider healing in Jesus' name. John's question seems to say: "How dare he! This outsider should be one of us!" [38]

Jesus turned the objection to the question of discipleship. No matter how small the kind act, no one who did good in the name of Jesus should be stopped. In fact, anyone who did not oppose Jesus and his movement were considered potential friends and benefactors. (This outward world view allowed Christianity to grow rapidly. Anyone was a potential Christian.) Friendship began with a simple kindness. A benefactor relationship began with a single act of charity. The good others did for Christ and his followers did matter!

But what good were the disciples inside the movement doing?

9:42 "it is better for him rather if the milestone of a donkey had been set around his neck and he had been thrown into the sea." The force of the two verbs indicate it would have been better that the person died before causing the scandal.

9:43 "It is better (that) you go into (eternal) life deformed . . . " Compare this statement with Leviticus 21:17-24, where only the undeformed could lead worship. Only the physically intact high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, the place the populace believed Yahweh definitely dwelt. In addition, self-inflicted wounds were forbidden in the Torah.

Now Mark stated the self-deformed could enter the kingdom. Ignore, for a moment, the fact that Mark used this extreme language symbolically. The weight of the statement was simple. Not only the sinners (the "deformed") could enter the Kingdom, the righteous (those with "two hands") could suffer eternal punishment! In addition, sometimes needed to "deform themselves" (i.e., leave the community of the "righteous" for the community of "sinners") to be saved.

"Unquenchable" in Greek is "asbeston," the root word for "asbestos."

9:43, 45, 47 "Gehenna" The valley of Hinnom, south and west of ancient Jerusalem. This valley became infamous as the "high place" for idol worship among Judah's monarchs (including an oven for human sacrifice). Because of it reputation, "Gehenna" became metaphor for eternal damnation in the time of Jesus.

9:44, 46 "where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched" Both verses are the same. Most scholars do not believe these verses are part of the original text, so they are deleted from most modern translations.

9:48 "where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." Unlike 9:44 and 9:46, this verse is original. This verse was an adaptation of Isaiah 66:24

"And they shall go forth and look on the dead bodies of the men that have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh." (RSV)

The worm referred to the nature decay process of dead bodies. Those who rebelled against God would suffer unending decay and fiery punishment.

Were the actions of the disciple causing scandal to the "little ones?" Scandal was such a great concern, it deserved a great punishment (to make the point Jesus infers capital punishment in v. 42). In the gospels, the "little ones" can be either the faithful or traveling missionaries. Scandal among the congregation or the leadership caused dissension, discord, and disunity. It could destroy the Church to a far greater extent than any outsider.

In v. 43, 45, and 47, Jesus used extreme language to make his point about the choice between the Kingdom and Gehanna. For the Jew in Jesus' time, the hand and the foot represented the areas of human activity. Did the activity of the disciple represent Christ or selfishness and evil influence? It was better not to be involved in a certain activity (have hands and feet "cut off") than to scandalize and be condemned.

The eyes [47] represented windows to one's heart and mind. Their use could weaken or strengthen the faith life of the disciple. Better not to see something (have the eyes "cut out") than to "scandalize" one's self and be condemned.

Catechism Theme: Respect for the Dignity of Persons (Scandal) (CCC2284-2287)

"Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil." (CCC 2284) The sin of scandal depends upon the reasons of those who cause the scandal or the weakness of the scandalized. Those who have power to influence others (people in media, teachers, law makers, etc.) have a particular responsibility to avoid causing scandal. The content of scandal can be institutional (i.e., a law or exercise of power). It can also be a matter of custom or opinion.

Those within the Church have a particular need to avoid scandal, so the Church can promote evangelization. But, the Church and Christians can never completely avoid scandalizing those who oppose Christ. Living out the faith can divide people, as much as it invites people to the Lord.

How has your practice of the faith challenge others? Did it invite others to join? Or, did it cause others to step away? What happened?

What is worse, to cause scandal or to be scandalized? Neither advance faith, only egos. Both can destroy faith and community participation. Both can lead to spiritual death.

Jesus gave us guidelines to address scandal. Encourage the faith of those outside the community. Know yourself and your weaknesses that can cause scandal. And, do not aspire to offices where you can cause scandal. Jesus wanted an increase in faith, not scandal. We should, too.

When believers cause scandal, it is a challenge away from faith. But, when God causes scandal (poses a challenge), it is a challenge to faith. God's will (his "scandal") requires openness of mind and heart. What time and energy have you spent seeking God's will, hearing his voice?

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