Who Belongs In The Kingdom Of God? – Fr. Mark

26th Sunday  In Ordinary Time – Year B

Fr. Mark Gatto

Date Preached: September 30, 2018

Who is on the side of Jesus?  Who belongs in the Kingdom of God?  We live in a very polarized world.  People tend to belong to one group or one tribe or one side and everyone on the other side is always wrong and to be rejected.  There is no chance for dialogue, no chance to work together on any common cause.

We see this polarization in many different areas of life, including politics throughout the world.  It is not that long ago that we saw that polarization within Christianity, between Catholics and Protestants.  We would never pray together, saw the other as heretics, would avoid being in their presence, excluding them.  It seems that we human beings tend to want to join a group, a tribe, that is exclusive, where my side is always right and the other side is to be excluded.

This is not something new, we see the disciples of Jesus in today’s Gospel doing the same thing.  They go to Jesus upset because they saw someone casting out demons in the name of Jesus.  They wanted to stop him.  Why?  They say, “because he was not following us.”  He is not on our team, our party, our group.  They want to exclude him from the side of Jesus, from the Kingdom of God.

But, Jesus rejects this exclusive way of thinking, this polarized thinking that divides and separates.  God is not as narrow as we human beings can be at times.  God is not so small.  God is at work in much broader and wider ways than we think.  God is not limited to the church or to Catholics or to so called holy places.  The Kingdom of God is not so narrow and exclusive as we can be at times.  In fact, the word “catholic” means universal.  As Catholics we are to embrace all cultures, all lands, all languages, all people of good will.  We need to watch not to limit where God’s Spirit may be at work outside of my group.

How do we know if I am on the side of Jesus, if I belong in the Kingdom of God?  It is not that I believe or think in a certain way.  Most importantly, it is by what I do.  If I look at how I am living my life, how I am behaving, does it reflect the way of Jesus, does it reflect the Kingdom of God?

This is why Jesus speaks so strongly about our need to reject sin from our life.  Sin matters, it is serious.  Sin damages our life and damages the lives of others.  So, Jesus uses strong language, “if your hand causes you to sin, cut if off, … if your eye causes you sin, pluck it out.”  Any behaviour or way of acting that leads us away from the way of Jesus, from life in the Kingdom of God, needs to be cut out.

Example:  In World War II, the great evil of the Holocaust taking place in Nazi Concentration Camps, seems so evil and unbelievable.  Yet, many involved in this were just ordinary citizens, otherwise decent people.  With families, children.  They cooperated with this evil, went along with it.  They would say that they were just following orders, just doing their duty.  They were just being obedient.

Well, if your boss orders you to do something immoral, unethical, that you know to be corrupt, do we go along with it to keep our job?  Is this not a case of where we need to cut something off in order to remain in the Kingdom of God?

In our second reading, the Apostle James speaks about rich people who became rich through exploiting others, who made riches the most important thing in their life.  He describes how their riches have rotted, their clothes are moth eaten, their gold and silver is rusted.  At the end of life, this is what happens to all of our so called riches.  The question is, “What is your treasure?”  If someone was to look at your life and how you are living, what would they see is your treasure?

So, who is on the side of Jesus?  Who belongs in the Kingdom of God?  God’s Kingdom is much broader, much bigger than our small thinking.  Look at our behaviour, what I am doing.  Anything that leads me away from goodness, into sin, we need to cut it out from our life.  At the end of life, the question will be, what did I treasure, where was my heart?

We need to show by our life, by our decisions, by our priorities, that I am a follower of Jesus, that I belong to the Kingdom of God.

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