26th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021

My Dear People, 

This episode is linked to the previous one because of someone acting in Jesus’ name (see 37). The Apostle, John, complains about a fellow who has been driving out demons in Jesus’ name even though he is not one of the disciples (see Luke 9:54 for a similar instance of intolerance). It is interesting that John says: “follow us” rather than “follow you.” Apparently, John’s criterion for legitimate ministry is under the Disciples’ authority. Or perhaps he does not yet fully recognize that Jesus Himself is the only source of their power. His protest echoes the objection of Joshua, who grumbled to Moses that Eldad and Medad were not in the gathering of those to whom Moses imparted his spirit, yet they too received the gift of prophecy (Num. 11:24-29). Moses’ reply could be paraphrased on this occasion: “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord drove out demons! Would that the Lord might bestow his Spirit on them all!” Indeed, at the end of the Gospel, the risen Lord will announce that those who believe in Him will drive out demons in His name (Mark 16:17). 

One might wonder why, in this instance, the unnamed exorcist is successful, whereas the book of Acts recounts an episode where seven brothers who tried to drive out demons in Jesus’ name were thoroughly defeated and humiliated (Acts 19:13-16). In light of Mark 16:17,  the most likely reason is that here the unknown exorcist is acting with an authentic faith in Jesus, whereas the seven brothers in Acts 19 were using His name as if it were a magic formula (see also Matt. 7:22-23).

Jesus’ reply directs His disciples to take an expansive rather than a restrictive approach toward others who are acting in His name. “Do not prevent him.” There is no place for exclusivism among those who invoke the name of Jesus. Paul illustrates a similar principle in Phil 1:15-18: “Some preach Christ from envy and rivalry. . . What difference does it make, as long as in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed? And in that I rejoice.” The Disciples should not presume to restrict the invocation of Jesus’ name, because no one who  performs a mighty deed  in His name can at the same time speak ill of Him. There were plenty of people who did speak ill of Him, but Jesus will take all the friends He can get! To do a work of healing or deliverance in His name is to honor Him and is not compatible with being His adversary. For whoever is not against us is for us.  Jesus is directing the disciples to take a stance of openness toward those who are not within the formal bounds of the Christian community, and not to consider them foes. But the converse is stated in Matt 12:30: “Whoever is not with me is against me.” In the end there is no neutral ground in relation to Jesus. Sooner or later, everyone chooses (consciously or unconsciously) either to be on his side or to oppose Him. 

With the solemn formula: “Amen, I say to you!”, Jesus emphasizes God’s generosity toward all and the great value of simple, humble acts of service.  No good deed will be overlooked, whether done by someone inside, or outside the Church. Even the smallest act of kindness toward a Disciple because of his association with Christ will be rewarded by God.  

Reward does not mean compensation that is earned, but a generous gift freely given by God in response to a good deed.  Mark pens this saying so as to highlight its relevance for his audience.    Because you belong to Christ is similar to Paul’s description of Christians who are “of Christ” (1 Cor 1:P12; Gal 3:29). Savior of the World, Save America!

Yours in Christ,

Fr. Vincent Clemente                                   


There are no comments yet - be the first one to comment: