27 September 2009

IF GOD RISKS ON US

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 9:38-43. 45. 47-48


That we may function well, we depend, almost our entire life, on others who give us validity, identity, and reality. Validity is the verification of the truth about our selves. Identity is the recognition of the truth about our selves. Reality is the truth about our selves.

A psychologist named Professor Smail said, “You cannot be anything if you are not recognized as something; in this way your being becomes a dependent on the regard of somebody else.”

We may not agree with Professor Smail’s opinion, but is it not true that there are people who boast of their being members of some exclusive organizations or movements? For some people, the more difficult to become a member of a club the better. Sikat ka!

Nonetheless, there is still something good about joining clubs, organizations, and movements, right? Our world expands. We are not imprisoned in our own shells. New acquaintances who become new friends, new experience – all these are good, are they not? New relationships are created and we develop a sense of belongingness that is very important in the building of our identity. Acceptance in an organization, a movement, or a club proves how our acceptance and recognition of our selves are accepted and recognized by others. To be rejected, refused, and snubbed is cleary a disapproval of how we regard our selves.

In our gospel today, the disciples of Jesus refuse to recognize the authority of a man they saw exorcising simply because that man does not belong to their company. John reports to Jesus, “Master, we saw a man casting out devils in Your name; we tried to stop him because he is not one of us.” Does the success of the outsider worry the disciples?

Who will not feel insecured? In the first chapter of the gospel of Mark, a father appealed to Jesus to heal his son who is possessed by an evil spirit that renders the boy unable to speak. According to the father, he already brought his son to the disciples of Jesus but they were not able to do anything at all. Apparently, as far as exorcism is concerned, the disciples are failures. Then, here comes an outsider who expels demons in Jesus’ name! The disciples’ reaction may not be right, but it is not difficult for us to understand how they feel. They do not want the outsider to continue in his exorcising and they hope that Jesus would stop him or, at least, would refuse to recognize him. If Jesus gives in to his disciples’ implicit request, the entire identity of the outsider will be subject to suspicion.

Indeed, we are disciples of Jesus, for sometimes, we think, act, and speak like them, don’t we? We feel threatened by the success of others, most especially those who do not belong to our company. We lose sleep over the possibility of being dampened in favor of the better, the more popular, the more patronized one. We fear being exchanged for others. Even among those who minister and serve in the church, competition is a menace. Ministers – lay and even ordained – can sometimes consider one another as rivals rather than co-workers in Christ. Why, can the success of other disciples lessen our being disciples ourselves? Do we become better servants of God by destroying His other servants? That is not what Jesus wants. Jesus is angry at disciples, church-ministers, and God’s servants who are like that.

“Whoever is not against us is for us,” Jesus says. Instead of approving what His disciples did to the outsider, Jesus challenges them to widen their view on God’s goodness. “Leave him in peace,” Jesus orders them. Jesus approves of the outsider whom His disciples want Him to disapprove. However, Jesus also assures His disciples that whoever welcomes them because they are His disciples will certainly not lose his reward. To be a disciple is to bless, not to curse. To be a disciple is to be a blessing to all, not be blest more than the rest.

The disciples seem to forget: they, too, are outsiders, are they not? The society in which they live refuses to welcome and recognize them. Almost all of them are uneducated, many of them are fishermen, and some are even public sinners. In a world they hope to find recognition and acceptance in the name of Jesus, Jesus asks them to give the same unto others. If your tolerance of others is low, what right do you have to expect others to accept and regard you with kindness? Jesus does not worry if, other than His disciples, there are those who do good unto others. If the good of everyone is Jesus’ passion, that passion can be served by anyone. For Jesus, as far as goodness is concerned, anyone can!

May we learn this lesson and really live by it. The value of whatever good we do is never raised by despising the good that others do. And we can boast of our membership in any organization, movement, or club without belittling those who do not. No one – neither the disciples of Jesus two thousand years ago nor, we, His disciples today – has a monopoly of goodness and success.
Let us break the boundaries of our constricted world. Truth is always greater than any of us. The real Christian accepts and recognizes this. A genuine disciple of Jesus welcomes the fact that goodness blooms and grows even beyond the borders of world we claim to own. The authentic sons and daughters of God sincerely respect God’s freedom in moving according to His desire and in choosing anyone He pleases to be an instrument of His goodness. This is humility before the greatness of God. May we have this humily always in us.

Think: If God takes risks on you and me, why should He not do the same on others? They may even be better indeed.

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