26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48)
– By Fr. Fabien, sx
This Sunday’s gospel tells us about one of the disciples, John, saying to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he is not one of us.”
The disciple says to Jesus “He is not one of us.” Words that we often hear and come out of our mouths can mean similar expression like: he is not one of our parishioners, he is not one of our group members, he does not belong to our community, nor to our island, he does not wear the same uniform, neither does he look like us, and so on. How many times have we heard these words in our groups, our exclusive clubs, at the political, social and cultural level, even in our Christian communities. Even inside the community of Jesus, there was this kind of exclusivity, particularity and exaggerated attachment to her or his own clique.
Several times, Jesus prevents his disciples from the fanatic exclusivity which generates division among people in two categories: “We” and “others”.
In this gospel, Jesus invites his disciples to embrace a new attitude and new lifestyle, the one in the gospel: “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus invites his disciples to practice the logic of hospitality, of reciprocal acceptance, the ability to see what is good in what others do and the good that others can do and are capable of doing. A good action, wherever it is and to whomever it is performed comes from God.
In the second part of this gospel, Jesus admonishes his disciples not to cause scandal to others, especially to the simple ones who believe in him. Biblically speaking, scandal means: hitch, obstacle, something that makes someone fall.
It is important that Jesus is not only worried about what can scandalize others that he calls simple, but he is also worried about what can scandalize us.
What scandals can we cause?
First, the scandal we cause to simple believers, to the little ones, and to others “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and hew was thrown into the sea.” These simple believers or little ones can be our children, our youth, our neighbour or the bigoted who live near us. These are the people who need to be sustained in their faith and in their weaknesses. These people need our attention and care so they may grow in their faith. Their need is for us to facilitate their meeting Christ. We must not be the cause of their weakness, fall or discouragement.
Second, the scandal that we can cause to ourselves: “if your feet causes you to sin, cut it off, it is better for you to enter into life crippled that with two feet thrown into Gehenna. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, for it is better for you to enter into God’s kingdom with one eye that with both eyes…”
In the midst of some determined scandals, Jesus is radical in his metaphoric speech. Jesus does not invite us to cut our hand or pluck our eyes, but to cut off with courage from all those things or bad habits that prevent us from living in communion with God, and with our brothers and sisters.
Jesus underscores three things to which we should pay attention: hands, feet and eyes. Therefore, we can say that we have to pay attention to what we do with our hands, to what we see with our eyes and to where we go with our feet. These three important parts of our body indicate man’s qualities and activities, instinct and impulses. I wonder why our Lord did not mention the tongue and the ears, because with our language we can bless or curse, console or hurt and with our ears we hear things that condition our actions and decisions.
With this message, Jesus invites us to be more decisive, radical and steadfast in our faith and Christian journey. There is no “less” in following Jesus. It is either Jesus or the greed for worldly things.