26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Num 11:25-29; Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48) “Cheering For Liverpool” PDF Version
Homily for 26th Sunday of OT, Year B (2018): Num 11:25-29; Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
When I was 12 or 13 years old, I decided that the soccer team I would cheer for in the English Premier League was Manchester United. For soccer fans, this news will bring either great delight or nauseating disgust. My reason for choosing Man Utd was because in those days David Beckham was their star player. When you are 12 or 13, imagining yourself being able to bend the ball like Beckham AND be married to one of the Spice Girls was reason enough to support the team this superstar played for.
As I learned more about the history of this club, I came to realize that to cheer for Man Utd meant to have some enemies in the Premier League. One certainly could not cheer for arch rivals Liverpool, or the noisy neighbours Manchester City, or one of the big London clubs like Chelsea or Arsenal. But then you became conflicted when these fellow English clubs were off playing in Europe in the Champions League against the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus , AC Milan and the other giants of European football. Did one cheer for your enemies if it meant defeating clubs of a rival nation? Or would cheering for them somehow better Man Utd’s chances of succeeding at home and aboard? Could Jesus be correct that often “Whoever is not against us is for us”, could you support and hope well for those you were less than inclined to support?
It seems that the Apostles, much like their forefathers in the time of Moses, were concerned to see that the work of God was being carried out by those who did not form the inner circles that surrounded Jesus and Moses.
Christ had been successful in not only drawing the 12 Apostles to Himself, but also many other disciples, both men and women, to proclaim the Kingdom. Some were former disciples of St. John the Baptist, others we can detect were scribes and Pharisees who were inspired by the teachings of Christ. Some biblical scholars speculate that the mysterious community of the Essenes, who lived a sort of monastic life on the shores of the Dead Sea, were also drawn to Christ and after His Resurrection would be numbered among the First Christians when it is speculated that many of them were part of the mass baptism of 3000 people that took place after St. Peter preached at Pentecost.
Many disciples were beginning to follow Christ and were endowed with the same prophetic gifts as the Apostles, even the powers of exorcism to drive out evil spirits by invoking the name of Jesus. Whether out of genuine concern, suspicion, jealousy or fear that tremendous works of God were taking place by those who followed Jesus of Nazareth, Our Lord affirmed His apostles that those who might seem to be enemies or outside the inner circle Jesus initially formed should be considered allies in the mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Truly, those who are not against us are for us.
Likewise, we can be at unease when we look across the Catholic Church, which exists in almost every single country around the world, and realize that many practice their Catholic faith in ways that differ from us. Some Catholics are labelled as more liberal while others more conservative. Some prefer more charismatic styles of prayer while others are drawn to traditional devotional practices and forms of silent contemplation. Many are inspired by a particular theologian that others find to be boring and too intellectual for their liking. Some are zealous in their practice of works of social justice while others are called to pray and offer penance and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners.
If these practices are done for love of God and in line with the teachings of our Church, they work together to build up the Body of Christ and better our world and show that there is room for legitimate diversity of practices within in the life of our Church.
Now it is quite often that a member of our Church can go astray and begin to teach or live a lifestyle that is in opposition to the faith of Our Church. Charity demands that we correct these individuals, lest they scandalize others and convince people to accept their error filled teachings and put their own salvation in danger. Such behaviour must be corrected and as we have seen in the past few months no one in the Church should be thought of as beyond reproach and correction.
If a once well respected and powerful cardinal in the US or elsewhere in the world can loss all their privileges as a prince of the Church and be called to a secluded life of prayer and penance, then all Catholics should be aware that a fall from prominence and prestige is often necessary to correct the evils that someone has done.
But very often it occurs that there are fellow Catholics we just don’t like because of the legitimate ways they are practicing their faith but in a style and manner we just find unappealing. It is important for us to then consider those words of Christ that “if they are not against us then they are for us.”
This is why we should make a conscious effort to pray for unity in our Church, to build up one another in prayer and seek to be unified when so many forces, both human and demonic, look to divide the Household of God. There is a moment during every Mass where we can make this prayer for unity. It occurs after the Sign of Peace as the priest takes the Large Host he consecrated, breaks it in half and drops a small piece of the Host into the Chalice, silently praying “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive It.”
This symbolic gesture recalls a practice in the ancient Church in Rome when the Pope would divide the Host into many pieces and have his deacons bring these portions of the Host to other churches in the Eternal City. This action showed how these churches were united to the Pope in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist as they received a portion of the Body of Christ and had It placed on their altars where they too were celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
We continue this practice within our celebration of the Eucharist to remind us how we too are united with the Pope to Catholics all over the world. We at Our Lady of the Rockies may differ quite a bit in prayer, liturgical practice and other facets of our Catholic lives from those Catholics in Japan, Uganda, Argentina, New Zealand, and the Micronesian Islands, but if we are all united to practice the fullness and truth of the Catholic faith, then those who are not against us are for us.
I am still not sure if I will cheer for Liverpool anytime soon in the Premier League, but I will try, a try hard, to wish them well if they do have success in the Champions League this season. However, I and each of you should not hesitate to love our fellow Catholic brothers and sisters, especially those we are less inclined to love and to ask God to help us discern rightful those who are not against us but for us in proclaiming the Kingdom of God