It Is The Same Ministry And For The Same Lord – We Are All Involved

A Reflection for 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B).
Numbers 11:25-29 – James 5:1-6 – Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48.

Dear brothers and sisters, the stories we heard in today’s readings bring out the theme that we are all together in the service of God, no matter what our little differences and group affiliations may be. We are called to work together to promote the Kingdom of God on earth, rather than being divided by our
denominational differences.

In the 1st Reading, when two of the selected 70 elders (Eldad and Medad, who were not at the tent with the others) were given some portions of Moses’ spirit and they started prophesying in the camp like the rest of the elders. Joshua wanted Moses to stop them, because they hadn’t been where the others were in order to receive the spirit of Moses, as Moses instructed. So for Joshua, what those two had received was not the same as theirs. Moses identified what was happening in Joshua as jealousy, so he quickly said, “are you jealous on my account?” Joshua was pretending to be defending Moses’ honour, but his real motive in trying to hinder the Spirit of God being active in those men was jealousy. God used this miraculous incident to remind them that His capabilities are limitless (cf. Num 11:23). God is not bound to a set of people who observe a certain set of rituals. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and boundless.

In the Gospel Reading, John reported back to Jesus about a man who was preaching in His name and whom they had tried to stop because he was not one of Jesus’ disciples. In reply, Jesus simply said: “You must not stop them”. This is because John and the other disciples were imagining that this man had no authority to use Jesus’ name for anything miraculous unless he had been chosen like them. The connection between these two readings is the plot to stop those who they felt were different from their group but were carrying out the same ministry for God. The apostles were anything but pleased when they witnessed an outsider casting out demons in the name of Jesus. They resented his intrusion, they were jealous, and they felt threatened because he was doing the same work as them but was not part of their group. Surely he had no right to be using the name of the Saviour! That is why John made a complaint in the hope of having this unlicensed preacher silenced. John must have been surprised that Jesus refused to stop the man from doing good work in His name. Jesus made it clear that all good comes from God the Father. and that doing charitable work was not the exclusive right of His followers. God moves where He wills and chooses whom He wills. His spirit is at work beyond the confines of established religion.

With the best will in the world, we can all fall prey to the rigid thinking and misguided notion that only the Church contains the whole truth and only Her members can perform spiritual works. It is a temptation into which we all fall. Whenever we think along these tramlines, we turn the Church in on Herself and deny that great works can be achieved outwith Her influence. We sometime forget that an action can be good and Godly without being performed by a Christian. Goodness in the world comes from God and not from men. Even within the Church, there is the temptation to form our own select groupings, to promote the ‘club mentality’ which is basically about being in and keeping other people out. In this regard, we can understand St James in the 2nd Reading advising us to eschew selfishness and greed, both of which can make us neglect the duty of love and respect for the poor and for people who work with us and for us.

We’ve all witnessed unhealthy rivalry between different denominations and their organisations, and between different parishes, and yet the aim of all our efforts is about furthering the Kingdom of God. Charitable organisations with the same objective – alleviating poverty or helping senior citizens, for example – can be at loggerheads with one another about who is to collect, and where and when collections are to be taken up. Their causes are very worthwhile, but their tactics can conflict with each other’s, giving a distorted image of their ministry.

In summary, the word of God tells us that any person of goodwill, who is doing their best to follow in Christ’s footsteps, is someone who graces the world. Every good deed contributes towards the battle against evil. Therefore, downgrading the motives behind someone’s charitable gestures amounts to spiritual begrudgery. God’s action is not limited to any class of people, or religious community or authority.

We are encouraged to support anyone who is being used by God, whether or not they belong to our group, our religion, our clan, and so on. There is a lot to be done to bring about God’s Kingdom on earth. Where you and I are incapable, God can use anybody from anywhere for it. We are all in this ministry for God’s glory together!