The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
30 September 2018 on board the MS Eurodam
Numbers 11, 25-29 + Psalm 19 + James 5, 1-6 + Mark 9, 38-43, 45,47-48
That apostle, John and his friends, have a big problem. They think that somehow this power or authority to cast out demons belongs to them. Now let’s be clear about this, the casting out of demons really refers to healing or helping since in those days, demons were behind everything that was bad. We must not be distracted by thoughts of wild or dramatic exorcisms. The issue here is power and authority.
John and his fellow disciples have to learn that Jesus is the only source of power, and that anything they accomplish is done by the power of Jesus Christ, not by their own skills or their own initiative. There can be no exclusive claim when it comes to doing good in the name of Jesus. In his response, Jesus is widening the outlook of his disciples, who seem tempted to seal themselves off as a closed group and maintain a spirit of jealousy over what they consider to be the exclusive prerogative of the community. When it comes to service and the care of others in need, there is no special group who have the rights to respond, neither is there any competition about who can do the most or do it best. There is only the power of Jesus Christ exercised in faith and motivated by the Gospel which has been handed on to everyone.
Competition is bad enough when it nurtures the “look what I did” attitude. There is another down side to be avoided here which is that “it’s not my job” attitude. When someone or some group rises up with an exclusive claim, others fail to respond thinking, “It’s not my job.” Then, nothing happens.
You have to wonder if the disciples were threatened by the gifts or achievements of someone else. If so, they have a long way to go before they realize that God’s gifts are freely given to everyone. Our responsibility is to welcome those gifts where ever they appear. In the end, we have to ask ourselves what difference it makes who does something good? When there is a need, there is no excuse for looking the other way or thinking, “let someone else take care of it.” Neither is there any reason to think with some unjustified smugness that we could have done it better. If we could have, why didn’t we? Why did we wait for someone else to do it?
In the next two weeks as we live together on this ship, there will more opportunities for doing good deeds than we can imagine. Stay alert for them, and do not assume someone else will do them, but if they do, recognition, a thank you or a compliment, would the disciple’s response rather than a complaint. Deeds, suggests this gospel, do not have to be big in order to be of help and comfort to the person for whom they are done. They just have to have a certain quality. That quality is warmth. All deeds which come from the heart have this warmth.