Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"Master, we saw..."




John said to him, 'Master, we saw a man driving out devils in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.' Jesus said, 'Do not stop him; no one who does a work of divine power in my name will be able in the same breath to speak evil of me. For he who is not against us is on our side. I tell you this if anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah, that man assuredly will not go unrewarded. Mark 9:38-41

Sounding quite pleased with themselves for having driven out devils in Jesus' name, the apostles then seem to step over the line, complaining to Jesus about the fellow who did the same, but illicitly. Jesus sets them straight, giving them a lesson on what matters and doesn't matter in the realm of religion.

I read recently from a blog that's been defunct for a number of years, of a young woman who claimed to be a Christian and a devoted follower of Jesus. When someone asked her where she had been baptized, she acknowledged that she had baptized herself in the tub at home. This set off all kinds of debate and contention in the hearers. Kind of sounds like the apostles running to tell Jesus about this exorcist-man who doesn't have jurisdiction and their stamp of approval. 

Orthodox-Heterodox. Authorized-Unorthorized, Valid-Invalid. Approved-Disapproved. Legitimate-Illegitimate. Who's in-Who's out. We've got all kinds of words in religion that reflect this kind of thinking still. Jesus doesn't seem to care. In other words: Don't stop anyone from doing a heavenly work just because they're not part of your group.

I con-celebrated a funeral Mass some years ago and after the Our Father, the priest went into a kind of dissertation about who may and may not receive Holy Communion. He spoke longer than he had at the homily time.

Mind you, this isn't a call to throw all caution - all disciplines - to the winds, but rather: If we were to really hear these words of Jesus deeply, what might change? This week Pope Francis went to Sweden to begin a year of reconciliation with the Lutherans as they remember the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. The pope's plane hadn't left the Rome airport when one cardinal (apparently assuming the pope was going to advance inter-communion with Lutherans), went very public announcing that a mutual reception of the Sacrament  was out of the question, an impossibility. One Lutheran bishop said: "Catholics don't own the Eucharist." Catholics don't own the Eucharist anymore than the apostles owned the power to perform exorcisms.

God is active everywhere, Jesus seems to say. What joy if we were better at discerning that active, divine presence. What new unity! What new Christian community! What a sign of healing for a world divided, bitter and weary.

14 comments:

  1. Father, I am glad that you added "this isn't a call to throw all caution - all disciplines - to the winds" here. I believe that people in general want and need some rules to follow. Something to guide them and give them structure. I understand what you are saying, but when does it become acceptable to cross the line and when is it not? Unity would be welcome, and I think that many people would agree, but these things happen in tiny steps. Disorder leads to chaos.

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    1. Of course rules are needed. Think of what happens on the roads when people ignore the rules of the road. And religion should indeed supply some structure to the spiritual way. A sort of container. Often it does not. Instead we mistake the container for the content. Scroll back a few days here and see the post titled "Husk and Kernel". "But these things happen in tiny steps." True enough, but that is frequently used as an excuse to do nothing. I don't want to make an example into the issue, but I'm asking, why won't the churches of east and west come to a common date for the celebration of Easter? What sin is behind that refusal: Pride, historical hatred, indifference to Christ's command that we be one, spiritual laziness. When Jesus spoke these words he wasn't fooling around, talking to the air, or just to the Apostles. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Bless your Sunday.

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  2. Thank you for this. I have many non Catholic friends and I never give it a second thought. We respect our different beliefs and don't let it divide us in any way. If this could happen on a global level as it does within our own circles, God would be happy with us. It is time to end the bitterness and weariness of the world. It has been long in coming.

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  3. In a world of unspeakable bitterness, division, accusation and hate, it seems to me that the Christians of all different "takes" should be tripping over themselves to fulfill Jesus' requirement of unity. It should be our real work. I'm troubled whenever I hear that Pope Francis has enemies - within.

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    1. Amen Father. We can begin by surrounding ourselves with unselfish, inclusive, loving people and from there grow our little communities into larger ones with the goal of serving God, not ourselves. God is all loving and so we should be also.

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  4. Catholic parishes, especially the larger ones, are often anonymous places. What a good work to actively welcome people - to learn some new names. In one parish I suggested that we move our seats once in awhile to be around new people we don't know, to introduce ourselves, to learn the names of other people's children. Big resistance. Why is that?

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  5. We spend so much time saying 'us' and 'them' that we forget we are a 'we'. God created all of us equally. Jesus didn't carry a sign that said "Follow me if...." He didn't put limits on who he brought along on His human journey. He included all kinds of people.

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  6. When Jorge Bergolio was elected Pope Francis he said, "I long for a poor Church." I long for a Catholic Church which knows Jesus very deeply through the Gospels.That we would know Jesus to the point of his disturbing us. "Christ, you have come to disturb us," Dostoevsky said.

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  7. Some of the most caring, unselfish, loving, people that I know, don't even believe in God. Their goodness is not driven by religion or any higher being. What does this say about our need to be close to God? Is it unnecessary?

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    1. Many of the people who do the work of caring for handicapped and special needs persons within Jean Vanier's L'Arche don't believe in God. They work alongside believers of every stripe. Is belief in God necessary? I suppose we each have to answer that personally - for ourselves. But it needn't become an argument with others - just a witness.

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  8. Without rules there is no order. Are we not called to both cherish and protect the Eucharist? The least we can do is to make the rules clear so that only those who have been invited to the feast approach the table. Perhaps priests or the Church should not just tell those present who can receive the Eucharist but also tell them how to join Christ's family so they too can eventually come to the feast!! Otherwise the church allows the most precious Body of Christ to fall into the hands of those who do not know what they are receiving and how can we possibly justify that???

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  9. Seven out of ten Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence. Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination in the country. The second largest denomination is fallen away Catholics. Sounds like we have an in-house problem.

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    1. Exactly why we should applaud, support, and commend those who are willing to stand up and bring our beliefs out in public. If we do not defend the real presence now tomorrow will be too late

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  10. The church essentially stopped catechizing adults a long time ago. And it shows. The Sunday homily is not a catechism class. We've got to be much more creative and invested in the work of teaching our own people. Much more creative. Much more invested.

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