Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Our unity is constituted in something higher than ourselves

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

Gospel text (Mk 9:38-40): John said to Jesus, «Master, we saw someone who drove out demons by calling upon your name, and we tried to forbid him because he does not belong to our group». 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».

“Ouch,” I said to myself. “Ouch! Ouch—again!”

I had read the Gospel for today: John brings to Jesus the news that he had seen someone else driving out demons in Jesus name, yet he “does not travel with us.” Jesus replied, “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.”

Why might this passage be prickly for me to read? Because I recognize John’s response as one I have made many times. It happens when I am involved in some “good work” with a group perhaps, and we hear about another community group with similar and just as effective outcomes, yet not attached to ours. Do we collaborate graciously or compete aggressively?

Or when someone, identified with a different political party than mine, is found to have just as good a solution to a national problem. I have to decide whether or not I am willing to listen to what he/she has to propose, despite our divergence along partisan lines.

Or a person I have labeled as belonging to a different wing, say of the Church, who says or does something vastly different than my expectations, wiser, more compassionate, or more akin to my belief. How difficult to release my closely held stereotype? Very.

“Wisdom breathes life into her children…” “Those who serve her serve the Holy One; those who love her, the Lord loves. She comes back to bring them happiness and reveal her secrets….She will heap upon them treasures of knowledge and an understanding of justice.” (Sirach 4:11-19)

Christians of all groups and denominations are brothers and sisters in the Lord. If we go to heaven, we will all be together forever. So we ought to start getting along here on earth. Our unity under our one Lord should overshadow our differences.

God's word commands and proclaims: "Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force. There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope given all of you by your call" (Eph 4:3-4).

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