In our Gospel reading for today, we have a lesson that speaks very much to our times. John the apostle goes to Jesus and tells Him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” And Jesus replies, “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.”
To say, “For whoever is not against us is for us” seems so foreign to our ears today. There seems to be so much of “us vs. them” in our country and in our world. But the danger in that is that we can get so caught up in identifying who we are in terms of being opposed to who “they” are, that we actually get in the way of doing good. I doubt that John saw it that way, but that is what he and the others were doing. They found themselves trying to prevent the driving out of demons, in Jesus’ name, just because the person doing it wasn’t part of their group! And Jesus had to tell them not to do that.
Personally, I have had experiences of working with ministers of other churches to do some good for the wider community. It was a real way of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Even in these times of division, there are groups making the effort to bring people together. With the threat of war looming in Europe, and conflicts going on in so many parts of the world (look at our first reading from the Letter of St. James), is it possible that Jesus is calling us to work together to drive out the demons of fear and hate with the love He has for all of us?
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.