In these times of change, crisis and challenges, there seem to be division and hatred prevailing. It seems we haven’t moved on; politics is quite a dividing factor in how we go about our day-to-day lives.
The past isn’t different either, in the First Reading, Joshua was asking Moses to stop the two elders Eldad and Medad, feeling that they should be excluded from prophesying (Num. 11: 25-29). The same situation arose when the Apostle John saw someone who drove out demons and called upon Jesus’ name (Mk. 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48). He tried to forbid him because he “does not belong to our group.” John made the mistake of assuming that only a few are entrusted by God. You should guard this kind of thinking because even if you say this as your intention, you may unknowingly be just protecting your privilege and standing as God’s servant. God thinks differently from us and will work mighty deeds even through the most unlikely of people. So, it goes to say that you should never judge others because for all you know, instead of hurting that person alone, you are hurting God too. All of us are called to holiness and to perform even the humblest work for the sake of pleasing God and His Kingdom.
Thus, Jesus answered, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My Name can soon after speak evil of Me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”
This attitude of excluding others because he “does not belong to our group” are the stances that perpetuate discrimination, poverty, misery and hatred. One religious publication even cited that “If religion has a bad name today and people walk away in disgust, it is because we have used religion to build walls and fences based on presumed differences, and not bridges and roads linking people up.” While it is man’s nature to cluster and group, there should be opening up and extending our acceptance of people we consider as outsiders. All it takes is for leaders to lead the way in imitating Moses and Jesus Christ who exemplify that love for others in bringing people together in love and joy. Otherwise, hatred, violence and disunity will continue to scourge our world.
As St. Paul referred to the faithful being the Body of Christ, then we can discern the Lord’s instruction in today’s Gospel, of cutting off the hand, the foot or the eye, that those who persist in sin should be set apart from the community as they are a threat to the faith and they weaken the faith of others. It is quite strict but while the Lord calls us to live a life of faith, we are also called to build up the faith in others and in the bigger community. Sin is not just a personal matter but has that aspect of affecting the Church as well. Thus, sin should be repeatedly avoided so as to keep the integrity of the community and the bigger Church. The Lord repeatedly mentions the idea of hell to bring home the point.
In this weary world, there’s hope, the light beckons, we can still fix the situation. But we need God’s grace to help us through. We are challenged to not only proclaim God’s word, but also be models for others to follow. We should be warned about thinking only of our own luxuries while excluding and neglecting others. Through this, we need the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment.
Let us therefore pray to God that we may lead lives worthy of our calling as Christ followers.
We need to pray for the grace to detect our shortcomings and be conscious of it to overcome these distractions in our journey to Eternity.
‘The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.’ (cf Ps. 19)