Twenty-sixth Ordinary Sunday
Points to note
The word Catholic means universal. It refers to the Church that is the Church of all peoples and in all nations. It refers to a Church where people could speak different languages and be of different races but bound together by a common faith. The most evident expression of this catholicity is seen in the masses held in international conferences of Catholic bishops or leaders.
The Catholic Church in some places is in some ways more Catholic than the rest of the world. There are some parishes where we have masses in a different language every Sunday. There are some parishes or chapels where only one Sunday mass is held, but in multiple languages.
Our expression of catholicity is more than just in language, but also in our tolerance of different ways of praying. Greek Catholics in Eastern Europe and Maronite Catholics in Lebanon, for instance, owe the same allegiance to the Pope but have masses that are very different. Even within Roman Catholicism, there are very different ways of prayer: a Charismatic renewal prayer session and a Latin language Tridetine mass are poles apart in atmosphere but neither can deny the Catholicism of the other.
Your words are truth, O Lord,
consecrate us in the truth.
Last Sunday, we saw how Jesus dealt with those who were arguing about who was the greatest of the disciples, while they were on the way to Jerusalem.
The Lord be with you.
All: And also with you.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Mark
(Mk 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48)
John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw a man who was not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.” But Jesus said, “You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.
“If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.
“But if anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fires go out.”
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
What languages do we speak at home? List the languages used. Highlight especially the more unusual languages encountered. Are we able to say that just because some people do not speak the same language that we speak, God does not listen to them? Discuss if God is limited to one language or one race.
Emphasise that most of us are different in one respect or another. Some of us are quiet and some of us are exuberant. Discuss if God prefers one type of people to another. Discuss the difference between the apostles. See if any of the children can identify the type of persons they are. There is no right or wrong answer to this one but draw out the impression the children have of the personalities of the apostles from the stories they know. For instance, I think Peter is brash, John is young, Thomas is tough, Andrew is trusting. Discuss if God loves any of them more than others.
Go through the first part of the reading again and discuss the impressions of the apostles: they went to another town and found other people casting out devils, when they thought that they and only they, being the friends of Jesus are able to do that. Did Jesus think that they were right to think in that way?
Discuss the implications of what Jesus said. Are we able to say that just because some other people are different from us, God loves them less? What about different ways of praying? Discuss the different ways of praying that we encounter in the church: youth masses, prayer meetings, rosaries, charismatic, etc. Can we say that any of them is better than the others?
Discuss also people who do not belong to our church. Are those people in other parishes any better than us or any worse than us? We all still belong to the Catholic Church worldwide. Explain the meaning of the word Catholic.
What about those Christians who are not Catholics? Are they any less Christian than we are just because they are not Catholics? What about those who are not Christians? Are non-Christians bad people just because they are not baptised?
In this age of Ecumenism, we have to redefine the limits of tolerance. It will be too advanced for the children to go into the intricacies of it all, but we aim to impart on the children that they are other ways of being praying to our God, and for Christians, many ways of expressing our Christianity. That God loves us all even if we are different.
When you go up for communion, the communion minister says "Body of Christ" and you say "Amen" (which means 'I agree', not 'I believe'), have you ever thought about what exactly it is that you are agreeing to? Yes, at one level, we are agreeing that the piece of bread is now the body of Christ. But at another level, we are also agreeing to the two of us in that dialogue are in the same Body of Christ. And for me something magical happens: two persons who never met and didn't know each other suddenly becomes one family, bound in the same faith by Jesus Christ, in whose body they were part of. And so, I know wherever I am in the world, I say Amen and I know I am home.