Encourage one another

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sept. 27

Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19:8,10,12-13,14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48

IN THIS WEEK’S Gospel, Jesus continues to teach the disciples about what it means to be his followers. The disciples “tried” to stop someone from casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Remember the disciples were unable to cast out a demon a little earlier (Mark 9:14-29) and now they complain to Jesus about someone else’s ministry.

Are they jealous that someone outside their group was able to do what they failed at? Instead of rejoicing that a demon was expelled and a person was healed in the name of Jesus, the disciples are indignant and wish to exclude and even ban someone else from healing.

Questions quickly arose among Jesus’ followers as to who could teach and heal and the criteria for being a follower. Jesus is clear that if a person is acting in his name and doing good, then the “us-versus-them” mentality is not appropriate.

The disciples want to be exclusive. They were the “in” group and this person is not a part of them. The disciples were judging who can do God’s work. But Jesus is inclusive and teaches acceptance and tolerance of others in ministry.

JESUS CONTINUES to teach his disciples about his expectation in dealing with the “little ones.” Here Jesus is not talking about children, but rather about people within the Christian community who are new and immature in the faith.

Cut off your hands and feet! Pluck out your eyes! These are strong words indeed. But Jesus is using hyperbole in which he deliberately exaggerates to get his point across. The rhetoric of disaster gets the disciples’ attention. Jesus turned the discussion back to the disciples to ponder their exclusive attitudes, their lack of hospitality, their lack of patience and tolerance, and to focus on their own sin. In essence, they are accountable to God for their actions.

By contrasting the disciples’ mindset, Jesus left no doubt as to the seriousness of their attitudes and behavior. Our relationship with God is at stake. Jesus teaches the disciples and us that we need to take the necessary steps to put an end to destructive attitudes and actions no matter how painful. Jealousy, resentment, exclusivity, ego, and pride are not gifts of the Spirit and, in fact, stifle God’s Spirit and work.

TODAY WE witness many divisions within our church and communities. Health care reform, pro-life issues, war, and justice activities all too often can pit people and organizations against one another. But no one person or group has a corner on God’s grace. God’s gifts are plentiful and diverse.

The Holy Spirit rests on all of us as a community, the body of Christ. Confident God knows our hearts, we are called to stand in solidarity with one another. When we act out of love and assume good will no matter what our differences might be in our religious beliefs, in our devotional practices, in our ministries, in our political affiliation or ideological positions, we work with the Spirit toward God’s reign.

Let’s encourage one another in ministry and act in solidarity as a Christian community knowing we are all working for and with a loving, merciful and just God.

Barbara Roedel is the pastoral associate at St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island.

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