“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. From Mark 9:38-50, today’s Gospel.
“You know full well that death and evil are what I hate. And whether you like it or not, we are together in the fight against them.” From The Plague by Albert Camus.
The disciple John was the brother of James and both were known as the Sons of Thunder, a revealing nickname suggesting stormy personalities. John certainly sounds tempestuous in the way he orders the unnamed person to stop healing in the name of Jesus but his complaint is because he’s not one of ‘us’. He probably expects that Jesus will be pleased about what he’s done but that’s not the case. Jesus always asked people to “Follow me”, not us, and he tells John not to forbid the exorcist because he is doing a mighty work, in the name of Jesus.
John’s attitude may stem from the earlier failure of the disciples to exorcise a boy (9:14-29) and this must have been a confusing time for the disciples as they try to come to terms with all that’s happening and the contrast with what Jesus is teaching them. Just as John tries to exclude, Jesus includes and shows this in his lifestyle too as he mingles with tax collectors, lepers, children and those with whom a practising Jew would normally not mix. In telling John, “Whoever is not against us is on our side,” Jesus recognises the importance of tolerance and acceptance – qualities which are much needed today, too.
With the consequences of Brexit and the pandemic, it’s easy to see the cost and benefit of separation and division as well as the cooperation and sharing that has developed. Having had to leave the UK, temporary visas are now to be issued to up to 10,500 European lorry drivers and poultry workers to overcome the problems with petrol delivery and food supplies – but will they want to return?
The above words from Camus’ The Plague are said by Dr Rieux, an atheist, to the priest Fr Paneloux, after both had seen a young child die terribly. Rieux recognises that, although they hold different beliefs, both are united in the challenge facing them and the battle that lies ahead. So it is for us with our differing circumstances and beliefs as we face the worldwide, national and personal struggle against sickness, death and evil. Perhaps, Iike John, there are people we may have tried to exclude – or have been excluded by – who could and should be included in the ongoing plans and hopes?
With my prayers; pob bendith,