Sunday Sermon for September 27, 2015, the Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Num 11:25-29; Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
In the Gospel reading today we hear our Lord instructing His Apostles that no one can perform a mighty deed in His name and, at the same time, speak ill of Him. The context of this is an occasion when the Apostles had tried to prevent someone from casting out a demon in the Name of Jesus because the person did not belong to their ranks.

Along with this reading the Church gives to us the first reading wherein we see two men who had been chosen by Moses to be among the number of those who would receive a portion of the spirit that had been given to Moses. These two men decided not to join the others outside the camp, but the spirit was given to them anyway.

When people tried to get Moses to stop the two men from prophesying, Moses asked if the people were jealous for his sake. He stated that he wished that all of the people of Israel would be prophets and that God would give His Spirit to everyone.

This is the same disposition we see in our Blessed Lord Who gives freely of His Holy Spirit to every single person who is baptized. At times there are people who have extraordinary gifts given to them, but for the most part, the gifts received are those that will allow us to live our lives in a way that will glorify God and help others.

This is the distinction that must be made. All too often we receive God’s gifts, but we do not use them for His glory or for the good of others. Recall the parable of our Lord when He spoke of the people at Judgment Day saying “Did we not cast our demons in your Name?” The response from our Lord is “I do not know you.”

So, we see that these people had some gifts that the Lord had given; they even used our Lord’s Name to cast out the demons. Clearly, they knew that the power to exorcise was not their own. Still, the fact that our Lord denies that He even knows these people tells you that they did not use their gifts to glorify God.

Even though these people cast out demons in the Name of the Lord, they must have either been taking credit for themselves or they were glorifying themselves rather than God. This is fairly easy to see when we are speaking of extraordinary charismata, like healing, prophesying, etc. However, it is, perhaps, a bit more difficult when we are dealing with the more “ordinary” gifts that are given to people.

This is what we see in the second reading where St. James is chastising those who have stored up riches for themselves. Granted, they were people of obvious ability and they worked hard to earn their money. This is very different from those who have extraordinary charismata wherein they would never think of charging any money for what they are doing. That, however, is a side point.

If God gives some people the ability to be administrators, teachers, artisans, craftsman, or whatever field He has blessed the person to be able to function, these kinds of gifts can be used to earn a living. However, the same principles apply in that the gifts are given to glorify God and to help others.

St. James is not condemning the work these people have done, nor the fact that they are wealthy. Neither is he condemning the fact that these people have used their talents to earn a living. Instead, what he is condemning is that they have used their God given gifts only for themselves without glorifying God or helping others.

Think about your own abilities for a moment. How often to you give credit to God for what you are able to accomplish? How often do you use you abilities to serve others? There is a balance that we have to strive for in these matters. As always, we have to guard against being selfish. Sometimes that selfishness is cloaked under the guise of prudence. So we need to be careful.

Rejoice in the gifts God has given you, but use the gifts in the manner that God wants you to use them. Do not just assume that because you have been given certain talents that they are yours to do with them as you please. If you do this, the Lord will deny that He knows you when you stand before Him for judgment.

Go to prayer, not only to thank God for what He has given you, but also to discern how He wants you to use those gifts. Look beyond the self and be resolved to glorify God and serve others. Your reward will be great in Heaven.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit