By Father Patrick Longalong
My cellphone rang a few minutes before 11 p.m. “I’m sorry for calling you this late, father, but I feel it important that you know about this. I heard that a group has started organizing their own celebration of Santo Niño at a parish in Brooklyn. Did you know about that? I was upset that they didn’t tell you.” I listened to her for a few more minutes with confusion, hoping to get some clarification as to what the problem is.
In the end, I realized she was expecting that since I am the coordinator for the Filipino Ministry in the diocese that every single Filipino organization should ask my permission before they organize an event in their own parish. Anyone who doesn’t, in her mind, is being disrespectful. I had to explain to her that our role is not to police nor administrate every single existing group but only to support, advise, and give guidance to liturgical resources whenever they need our assistance. We encourage them to participate, grow and enrich the spiritual life of their own parish community, not to create a community independent of their parish.
Our Gospel reading this weekend continues to address the mistaken and divisive understanding of what greatness means among Jesus’ disciples. The disciples brought to Jesus’ attention their wrongfully identified problem. They had an issue with someone who was driving out demons using the name of Jesus. The problem was not in the healing but in their possessiveness of the ministry that Jesus established. It is also disturbing that they didn’t even offer to help liberate the possessed person. They were too engrossed in preventing the man from helping him and not the well-being of the person suffering.
Today, we join with the disciples as they mature in their understanding of true service and building God’s Kingdom. Jesus taught his disciples that the world is a field ready to be harvested and that they are the ones tasked to do this work (Luke 10:1-3). We understand Jesus’ instruction to mean that we as a Church should evangelize to the world, giving them the invitation to respond in faith and repentance. Unfortunately, there are people who interpret this as “us” (Church) and “them” (the world). Even though they may not admit it, there is an unspoken and unacknowledged sense of superiority to the rest of the world.
The second reading from the Letter of James reminds us of the fleeting glory and pleasures in this world, that if we do not use in the service of others, does not give us real meaningful and life-giving relationships. Msgr. Conrad Dietz back in the seminary taught us that the pursuit of power, prestige, pleasure, and profit is not necessarily bad if we remember to acknowledge those who help us attain them and we reach them honestly.
And once we have reached that position in life, we have the responsibility to put them at the service of our community. It is a reality that not everyone will attain these lofty goals, but for those who are able, it is a gift from God that we are required to be generous in helping to alleviate the suffering of those who are powerless or have less than we do.
For many of us who are already working together in the vineyard of the Lord, we are reminded of the essential need to practice humility. It is in living out this virtue that we open ourselves to the daily conversion of heart and an openness to allow others to join in our effort to build the Kingdom of God.
May God’s grace expand our hearts to recognize God’s work in others even if they did not originally begin within our own community.
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.