In our first reading from the Book of Numbers, we hear of Moses selecting seventy elders who will assist him in ruling the people of Israel. For some unknown reason two of them, Eldad and Medad were absent from the ceremony. Later they began to prophesy and speak God’s word to the people. Joshua, who was Moses’ right hand man wanted to stop them, But Moses in his wisdom, said: “If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!”
In the Gospel, we see a similar situation. John is very concerned and says to Jesus: “Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.” Jesus said: “You must not stop him … anyone who is not against us is for us … if anyone gives you a cup of water to drink … you will not lose your reward.”
Even the simplest gesture to someone in need, is a sign that we can recognise Jesus in another person. We need to keep in mind that the ordinary everyday acts of kindness are so important. They all add up to a life of service. But back to the “not being one of us”: how often do we limit God to our narrow little world? How dare we put limits on what God can do? We can be so narrow-minded, just like Joshua or John. In other words, what matters is getting God’s job done, not the pettiness of who is in or out of the ‘club’. We can judge people by their fruits. Not forgetting St James! He makes a strong of wealth, especially when it is achieved through exploitation of the poor and the weak who can offer no resistance.
We may not be millionaires, but we are part of the privileged people who have got the basic necessities of life: food on the table, a roof over our heads, security to go about our lives in freedom. Many, many people lack those basic necessities of life.
You can check out some statistics – this is what I found: the top 1% globally holds 43% of all personal wealth; the richest 85 people in the world are worth more than the poorest 3.5 billion (i.e. more than the population of China and India combined). (It’s very interesting to Google those sorts of statistics). As ever, the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer. Instead of any equality the gap is getting wider.
St James reminds us of the final worthlessness of wealth. Wealth does not lead to happiness. To place one’s hope in material wealth is foolish. But the media and especially the adverts tells us that possession do lead to happiness. This is fake news!
Possessions can make a person arrogant, proud and self-satisfied … there is no need for God or anyone else! For every person who has too much, there are at least ten people who have too little. But where do we begin or what can we do? The first is to be conscious of the situation. One of the items we can learn from Covid-19 is how fragile we and our world are! We must value what we have got and share what we can.
I came across a Native American proverb which says something like: “When you have damaged the waters and the soil, and when you have removed all the trees from the landscape, then you will realise you cannot eat money!”
Have a blessed week, Fr Joe