Today’s very short gospel from Mark contains one of my favorite stories. It fits well with the realities of modern life and with the Old Testament reading too.
The disciples are concerned that someone else is driving out demons in Jesus’s name. Essentially they are suggesting to Jesus that he protect his turf and make clear that only He is a fully sanctioned demon-driver. Jesus, of course, sees the big picture. Driving out demons, healing the sick, feeding the poor or whatever other work of charity one might imagine is a good thing no matter who sanctions it. One can almost feel Jesus’s bemusement at his disciples’ entreaties. And then he utters one of the most famous and gentle rebukes in the Bible: “For whoever is not against us is for us.”
Oh, to be able to see the world in these terms consistently. Unfortunately we often see it the other way: that everyone who fails to praise us is really against us. This failing is as human as it is inevitable as it is ancient. And the first reading hits the mark exactly with its admonition about boasting. If we aren’t getting praised, what do we often do? We praise ourselves by boasting.
We human beings naturally gravitate towards our own psychological needs and satisfaction and have a hard time being truly “other aware.” If this unsanctioned disciple is driving out demons and giving relief to others in Jesus’s name, then how possibly could the work of Jesus and his disciples be diminished? What good would come of stopping him and not allowing him to do his good works for other people?
Oddly enough, we humans often seem more concerned with who gets the credit than we do with who actually benefits. Deep inside, we often would prefer that half as much good be done if we could get all the credit than if twice the good were to be done with the credit shared. So here we must imitate Jesus and worry not about who is getting the credit but rather about whether God’s work is being done.
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