In spite of Jesus’ efforts to teach them how to live as he does, serving God’s Reign, making people’s lives more human, more dignified and happy, the disciples don’t end up understanding the Spirit that fills Jesus, his great love for those most in need, and the deep direction of his life.
The passage in Mark is very indicative. The disciples tell Jesus about something that has bothered them deeply. They have seen someone they don’t know «driving out demons». This person is doing it «in Jesus’ name» and along his same line: dedicated to freeing people from the evil that keeps them from living humanly and in peace. However the disciples don’t like that person’s liberating work. They aren’t thinking about the joy of those who are healed by that person. This situation seems to them to be an intrusion that must be cut off.
They explain their reaction to Jesus: «We tried to stop him because he was not one of us». That stranger ought not to keep healing because he isn’t part of the group. They aren’t concerned about the peoples’ health, but only the group’s prestige. They pretend to monopolize Jesus’ saving activity: no one should heal in his name if they don’t stick to the group.
Jesus rebukes his disciples’ attitude and puts himself in a radically different logic. He sees things from a different perspective. What’s first and foremost isn’t the growth of that small group, but rather that God’s salvation reaches every human being, even if brought about by people who aren’t members of the group: «Anyone who is not against us, is for us». The one who makes Jesus’ healing and liberating power present in the world is for his group.
Jesus rejects the sectarian and exclusive posture of his disciples who only think about prestige and growth, and he adopts an open and inclusive attitude where what’s first is to free each person from whatever destroys and brings unhappiness. This is the Spirit that must always animate his true followers.
Outside of the Catholic Church there are countless men and women in the world who do good and who work for a humanity that is more dignified, just and free. Jesus’ Spirit is alive in them. We need to see them as friends and allies, never as adversaries. They aren’t against us since they are for human beings, just like Jesus.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf