Sunday, Sept. 30, is the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Liturgical Year B, Cycle II).
There are great saints’ days in October.
Oct. 1 is the memorial of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. St. Thérèse is a favorite of many Catholics who long to imitate her childlike love of Christ and others. Get to know her better through Benedict and St. Thérèse by Father Dwight Longenecker and I Believe in Love by Jean C.J. d’Elbée.
Oct. 2 is the memorial of the Guardian Angels. Google "Pope Benedict XVI guardian angels" to find the Pope’s words about guardian angels and his explanation of the time his guardian angel let him break his wrist.
Oct. 4 is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. You probably already have your own favorite St. Francis resource. We own the quiet, subtle classic Italian movie The Flowers of St. Francis. We find that it gives our children a new view of the saint.
Numbers 11:25-29; Psalms 19:8, 10, 12-14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Catholics often emphasize the importance of being an "orthodox Catholic," one who believes what the Church believes. That is absolutely right. What you believe is extremely important. As Pope Benedict XVI put it, friendship with Jesus means idem velle, idem nolle (same desires, same dislikes). As Jesus put it, "Amen, amen, I say to you: Whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life."
But that’s not the full story of what Jesus expects. Jesus also said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."
In the great story of the Last Judgment, he doesn’t separate the sheep and goats according to their beliefs, but according to their deeds.
A Catholic who knows his apologetics backward and forward and can defend Catholic doctrines against Protestants, pagans and dissenters can be right 100% of the time and still be headed to eternal perdition if he doesn’t act according to his beliefs.
If you do Catholic volunteer work, it won’t take you long to meet people who struggle with one teaching or another but who quietly and consistently live upright lives that avoid sin and embrace service. There’s nothing wrong with struggling with a teaching — but don’t promote that the Church is wrong.
In the first reading, the 70 elders of Israel get a dose of the spirit that allows Moses to speak the Lord’s truth, to prophesy. But two elders, Eldad and Medad, weren’t where they were supposed to be. They weren’t being orthodox in their religion. Nonetheless, "the spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp."
When Joshua objects, Moses rebukes him: "Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!"
The same thing happens in the Gospel, when someone is driving out demons in Jesus’ name. One of the apostles tells Jesus he tried to stop him. "Do not prevent him," says Jesus. "There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me."
Then Jesus broadens the definition of what "a mighty deed" is: "Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward."
He doesn’t just define right behavior by good deeds. He defines it by avoiding sin. Jesus is so radically opposed to sin that he says it would be better to be maimed than to be a sinner. Worst of all, he says, is to cause "one of these little ones who believe in me to sin."
"It would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea."
Here orthopraxy and orthodoxy meet. There are two ways to cause little ones to sin: One is to lead them into sin by example; the other is to teach them error or — what amounts to the same thing — to fail to teach them truth.
True orthodoxy is at one with orthopraxy. As the Psalm puts it: "The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart." Both your heart and Christ’s.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.