Opening up our narrow-mindedness
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 30, 2012 (26B)
By Fr. Orly Sapuay, MS
Podcast of the Sunday Readings
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New American Bible
Prayer of the Hours
The word of God pursues the message of last Sunday. We have seen them argue amongst themselves, “who is the greatest?” indicative of their intense rivalry and competition, jockeying for prominent position in God’s earthly kingdom, which they wrongfully assumed that this was the mission of Jesus.
This time, someone from outside their circle become their rival. “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him.” The twelve think that they are the only ones authorized to minister using Jesus’ power and name. But, much to their surprise, someone who does not even belong to Jesus’ company is able to drive out demons, something that the apostles themselves were at one occasion powerless to do (Mk 9:14-18).
Before there was rivalry amongst themselves; now they are ganging up against someone considered to be an outsider. It seems that it is easier to be harnessed as one against (rather than for) something or someone. This indicates their narrow perspective of belongingness to Jesus . In a way, they resemble the incredulous townmates of Jesus in Nazareth.
The anonymous exorcist, though not belonging to the twelve, obviously believe in Jesus and does the will of God to rebuke demons. Jesus prevents the apostles from censuring this man because, clearly, he is a person of greater faith and heir to the blessings of the kingdom of God. Very often, Jesus acknowledged greater faith from among outsiders, foreigners, and even from pagan territories.
Jesus is trying to open up our narrow-mindedness. In our attempts to exclude others, Jesus says, “For whoever is not against us is for us. Exclusivism is often poisoned by self-righteousness. We are good, they are bad. We are right, they are wrong.
Jesus introduces a new paradigm. Love that does not include and embrace all is not love at all. There is goodness everywhere and faith can be found where in unexpected places and peoples. Our mission is to discover God. We do not bring Jesus where we go or where we are sent. God and His kingdom is already there ahead of us. We should take off our shoes!
We need to be always on the look-out for the yeast of goodness already at work around us. He asks that even the most modest needs be attended to like giving someone a drink of water. Then, using some very strong images, he warns against scandal or causing the weak to sin. One had better drown than lead another astray. He also exhorts us to avoid the causes and occasions of sin in themselves. It would be better to lose some part of the body than to continue having them at the expense of one’s salvation.
Finally, Jesus says that trial and persecution will in fact, cleanse us, purify as both salt and fire. Why this is so? Our estimation of mankind is that the prominent, the wealthy or the strong are the greatest. “Survival of the fittest!” But the Lord Jesus Christ declared that humility, such is found in a very small child is a requisite for true greatness. God’s blessing is upon the meek.
The designation of the least and the great in the kingdom of God was discussed in the Sermon of the Mount (Mtt 5:5). Those breaking the principles of the kingdom were considered least; whereas those doing and teaching the principles of the kingdom were designated great. It is this that is at odds with the world. What is success with God is often failure in the eyes of the world. Success with God may not include fame and fortune, health and happiness – as the world knows them. What is success? Success is knowing the will of God and doing it.
We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are ~ Anais Nin
“He drew a circle and shut me out --------
heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win;
we drew a circle and took him in” (Edwin Markham)
These lead us to consider serious questions. When assigned to do a special task for the church, do you harbor a grudge when you are not recognized or appreciated? Do you have a sense of power and prestige in assuming ecclesial tasks? Is Jesus lso present in other peoples, cultures and religions even if they are not Christians by name?