Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Homily - 9-27-15


Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your 
name, and we tried to stop him because he does not belong to our group. 
Mark 9:38

I don't know what kept Jesus from pulling his hair out sometimes. He was sent from God to unleash a world-wide movement to announce the favor and goodwill of God toward all of humanity, but every time he turned around his apostles were acting like a bunch of silly little boys engaged in one-upmanship. Right before this passage, Jesus had caught them arguing about who was the greatest. Jesus knew that his movement would only expand if it kept an outward orientation and if his helpers remained committed to expanding its influence.

In this part of the story, one of the other disciples of Jesus, though not part of the inner circle, was discovered casting out demons in his name. His apostles try to put a stop to it because "they are not one of us, they are not part of the inner circle, they are not one of the chosen twelve!"  I am sure that Jesus was thinking to himself, "How will my message ever be taken to the whole world, if my "apostles," meaning "those sent," keep trying to control its expansion and keep it under their personal control?"

What makes this passage so ironic is the fact that those very same apostles, who wanted to stop this follower of Jesus from casting out demons because he was not part of the inner circle, were themselves unable to cast out a demon who was causing seizures in a young boy, just a day or two before! The success of those who was "not one of us" made them jealous.

It was self-centered of them to try to control the expansion of the Gospel message, instead of facilitating and unleashing it. They made a tragic mistake. Disciples do not follow disciples, they follow Jesus. They mistakenly thought that God's kingdom was their kingdom to rule and control.

Unfortunately, many of us who call ourselves disciples of Jesus, act the same way. It must be part of our human nature to draw boundaries between insiders and outsiders so that we can exclude others and feel better about ourselves. 

President Ronald Reagan used to have a plaque on his desk with a quote that has been attributed to several famous people. "You can accomplish much if you don't care who gets the credit."  Those words sum up what the teaching of Jesus is for us in today's gospel. For Christians, what is accomplished is always more important than who accomplishes it. We are the Body of Christ with many parts, working together for the good of the world. When one part of the body suffers, all the members suffer. When one part of the body is honored, all share in that honor.

Suppose the J. Graham Brown Foundation wanted to award a local college a $10,000,000 grant. Suppose both Bellarmine and Spalding were in the running, but Spalding ended getting the grant. Should Bellarmine not rejoice that such a large gift was going to further Catholic higher education, even though the money went to Spalding?
Suppose President Obama and the Democrats were able to negotiate a peace plan for the Middle East that both the Israelis and Palestinians could live with. Should Republicans not rejoice that the world has taken a major step toward world peace, even if the Democrats get credit for it?

Suppose a thousand mediocre Catholics, who have stopped going to church anywhere, were to become active members of Southeast Christian Church. Should we not be happy that at least they are being spiritually fed somewhere, even if their numbers grow from our loss?

Suppose you and your fiance break up because you both know that it would never have worked out for you anyway - only to see him or her happily married to someone else? Should you not be happy that they were able to find someone with whom they could build a solid marriage - sparing you both from an happy future?

Students! There is an important practical message for us today. When we go through life with an attitude that it's all about me, that selfishness will certainly cause us much pain and great loss at some point. It will drive people away from us and surely we will end up lonely and bitter.

To be happy, we must learn to be magnanimous. To be magnanimous means to be noble and generous in heart and mind, rising above jealousy and rivalry. A magnanimous person is secure and happy enough within himself to rejoice at the success of others. Magnanimous people, content within themselves, attract many high quality friends into their lives.  

If you want to be happy and have friends, follow the advice of St. Paul to the Philippians, "Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all that you do."  Maybe you could also consider our state motto, "United we stand. Divided we fall."  Let us celebrate the gifts of all, for surely, all our gifts are needed!