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.