September 23, 2009

Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Brian Pizzalato *

First Reading – Num. 11:25-29

Responsorial Psalm – Ps. 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14

Second Reading – Jam. 5:1-6

Gospel Reading – Mk. 9:38-43, 45, 47-48


There is an obvious parallel in this Sunday’s Old Testament reading from Numbers and Gospel reading from Mark.  In Numbers, the People of God are making their way from Mount Sinai to the Promised Land. The people are whining and complaining the whole time. Moses, fed up with the whole situation, says to the Lord, “I am not able to carry all these people alone, the burden is too heavy for me. If you will deal thus with me, kill me at once…” (Numbers 11:14-15a).


God then kills Moses!


No! No! No! Instead, God says to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel…and I will take some of the spirit which is upon you and put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it alone” (11:16, 17).


The spirit then falls upon the 70. However, the Lord willed that the spirit should also fall upon Eldad and Medad who had remained in the camp, not coming to the Tent of Meeting. They, like the 70 began to prophesy. Joshua, Moses’ right hand man, thinks that Eldad and Medad should not be prophesying, and says, “My lord, Moses, forbid them” (Numbers 11:28). Moses then gives this wonderful response: “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (11:29).


Now we come to Jesus and the Apostles. John complains about someone who is driving out demons in Jesus’ name. John even admits that they tried to stop him “because he was not following us” (Mark 9:38). He has apparently not learned his lesson from the Book of Numbers. Jesus says, “Do not forbid him…For he that is not against us is for us” (9:39, 40). Jesus will later say, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons” (Mark 16:17).


Besides the more obvious parallels between these two passages from the Old Testament and the Gospel, let us consider a unique feature of the Gospel in comparison to Numbers.


Moses was carrying the burden of the people alone. The Lord then pours out the spirit upon 72 men. Jesus, the New Moses, already has the Twelve to share the burden of the people. The unity of the Twelve with Jesus is so strong that the man casting out demons is said to not be “following us” (Mark 9:38). Jesus also says, “For he that is not against us is for us” (9:40).


Jesus is essentially teaching them that they will not be carrying the burden alone. Each of the Twelve already has eleven others to share the burden. However, Jesus is helping them to understand that the Twelve collectively will not have to bear the burden of the people alone. He is essentially saying that what Moses wanted to happen is now coming to fulfillment, namely “that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29).

Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate, Diocese of Duluth and is a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England.

Brian writes a monthly column, “Veritatis Splendor,” for The Northern Cross of the Diocese of Duluth and his 33-part series on the sacraments for The Northern Cross have also been posted on Catholic News Agency's website, where he also authors a weekly column, “Road to Emmaus,” on the Sunday Readings, (which are translated into Romanian and posted on

Pizzalato is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute. He is also author of the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition at the Maryvale Institute.

Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. Brian currently pursuing an M.A. in Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO as well as being a Ph.D. candidate at the Maryvale Institute. Brian is married and has six children.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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