26th Sunday of Year – B
The gospel today presents us with two different themes: the main one pertains to the fact that in Christ, we are all priests, prophets and kings. We have this as a result of our Baptism into Christ – the preeminent Priest, Prophet and King. Yet along side with this, Jesus realizes fully that the mystery of sin will remain among his followers. And hence he speaks in strong language of how important it is that we avoid all sin. It is better to enter the kingdom maimed and blind than to be cast into hell. In this way he highlights the fact that “whoever is not with us is against us. The gospel presents us with the theme of the threat given to those who cause one of these little ones to sin. This brings us to the theme of the sexual abuse of the young. This is certainly foremost in our awareness due to the scandals within the Church and also the current events in government with the issue of confirmation of one for the Supreme Court which has been brought to the fore this past week and will continue for at least another week.
In the mind of Christ, however, these two are closely related. Christ knows that sin will be present within his followers. And so he emphasizes the importance of making sure that we are with Christ in truth and in deed. If we are with Christ, then the gift of prophecy is active within us. The prophet brings an awareness of the nearness of the kingdom of God. He or she manifests the power of Christ over Satan and his enticements. The abuser and sinner brings only an awareness of the failure of truly living in Christ.
Both of these elements are present within each one of us. For this reason Moses said: “Would to God that all were prophets!” One who follows Jesus in his own path to Calvary will overcome the power of Satan within himself. And this is the struggle which is presented to each one of us today and every day. Am I truly with Christ or against Christ? Is society truly with Christ or against Christ? We are called to discern this on both levels – within our own heart and within society today. We claim to be with Christ – to be a Christian nation. But do our actions, our priorities, our aspirations show us as with or against Christ. It is not possible to be in the middle, even though each one of us vacillate between the two. Jesus presents it, however, as a determining factor as to whether we will find life in him or in eternal fire.
However if we draw on the gift of being prophets, then we will proclaim and strive to live out the message of the kingdom of heaven. Then we will truly be with Christ. But being with him is not an easy path. For him it led to rejection and to death on the cross. Hence if we are to be true prophets of the kingdom, then we also must face the possibility of being rejected by others, whether within Church or society. We are called to recognize that greatness in life does not consist in power and prestige, but in such a simple thing as giving a drink of cold water to one in need.
All too often today, however, it is a question of throwing water on the other rather than offering assistance to one in need. We are to recognize that the one we meet who is in need is actually Christ himself in need. This is why Jesus made the law of love so primary in his kingdom. And love means a willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the other. This is what it means to be a true priest, prophet and king. Christ fulfilled all of these roles in his presence on the Cross, and he calls us to follow in his steps. It is only in this way that the Church can be a true minister of the kingdom of heaven and it is only in this way that society can present the image of Christ and provide true life, liberty and happiness to all. Perhaps we are fortunate in living in these days of such struggle and strife within the Church and within society. Because it throws light on what is means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, who came to glory only after suffering rejection, death but also resurrection. For now we truly realize that “whoever is not with us is against us.”