SUNDAY, TWENTY SIXTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Num 11:25-29; Ps 19:8,10,12-14; Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43,45,47-48
WHO ARE THE ENEMIES OF JESUS?
There is a remarkable parallel between the experience of Moses in the first reading and the experience of Jesus in the gospel. In the book of Numbers, a young man approaches Moses and complains that two men who were not present in the tent along with the seventy elders, had also begun to prophesy. These two, Eldad and Medad, were doing good works, speaking in truth the word of the Lord to the people, but even Joshua, son of Nun, the one who would succeed Moses in guiding and guarding Israel, is shocked and dismayed. Moses, filled with the spirit of wisdom that can only come from the Lord and the experience of a long, holy life, calms the fear of those who are jealous of Eldad and Medad.
Likewise in the Gospel, Jesus, who is wisdom himself, encounters another young man, John the apostle and future evangelist. John, filled with the zeal and intensity that comes from youth and vigour, like Joshua and the young man from the Book of Numbers, is scandalized that others are healing and driving out demons in Jesus’ name. If we take a closer look at the account, we notice that John does not say, “He is not your disciple,” but “He is not one of us.” It is like saying that, not Jesus but they, are in charge of judging what is good or not. Jesus, ever the kind and gentle Master, uses this awkward situation to catechize all his disciples and set an example for the Church. Jesus replies, “The one who is not against us is for us.” Jesus does not reject the exorcist, but he does not exclude the erring disciple either. Jesus and the disciples are ‘us.’ Whatever their mistakes, the disciples are not his enemies.
Sometimes it may appear that someone is against us when in reality they are not. For example, if the person is speaking a truth that we don’t want to hear, they seem to be our enemy, while in fact in that moment, they are God’s chosen prophet. At other times, people side with us, only to please us or for their own agenda; they are not interested in assisting the purposes that God has for our lives. And sometimes we encounter people who are doing the Lord’s work but not in the way that we expect them to, and so we assume that they are not doing what God wants them to do.
How to make a right judgement? To figure out whether someone is truly against us or is, in fact, God’s instrument for us, we have to separate ourselves from the heat and frustrations of the experience and sit quietly with Jesus. After we vent out our fears and anger and then forgive those who seem to be against us, we will be open to listen to his assessment of the situation. Jesus also exhorts us to work together. We should not shy away from accepting a helping hand from others. At times we can get very possessive about the work that we do. In effect, we are saying: “That’s what I do! Why are you in my territory?” Jealousy and rivalry is something that Jesus wants his disciples to always avoid.
Who were the real enemies of Jesus? We can think of the Roman authorities and those who supported them in condemning Jesus and finally putting him to death. He was opposed by the Sadducees who saw him as a threat to their religious and political position. He was opposed by the Pharisees as well whose religiosity he lambasted. Surprisingly, Jesus does not single any one of these. Instead, in the second part of today’s Gospel passage, he speaks against those who cause little ones who believe in him to sin, those who ‘scandalise’ believers. These, it seems, are those who are really against him; not an external enemy, but someone within. Any disciple could become a scandal to another believer. Am I one of them?
Response: The precepts of the Lord are right; they gladden the heart.
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