The Apostle John attempted to prevent someone from casting out demons in Jesus’ name because he was not one in their “company”, he was not on the inside. This person did not appear to be like Simon the Magician (see Acts 8:9-25) who sought to buy the power of God from the Apostles to perform feats to boost his own fame and ego, this person was doing what they were doing and in the proper way, by invoking the name of Jesus.
Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you” (Lk 9:50). The important part about being a disciple is surrendering ourselves into and following the will of God. This was a consistent point Jesus pointed out to his followers time and again. Being a disciple of Jesus had nothing to do with whether or not someone was in or out of their company, or whether they were related to Jesus, as is recorded just in the last chapter of Luke 8:21, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Jesus, in today’s Gospel, is pointing out the danger of group think for its own sake. This is something we desperately need to get in our present moment. What is important is not putting our self, our family, our tribe, our party, our nation first. What is important is putting God first. The man in today’s Gospel did not rely on his own strength or will power but called on the name of Jesus to cast out demons. John was getting hung up that this man wasn’t one of them, wasn’t in their company, and he was doing what they were called to do. John may have also been a bit miffed that this man was doing a better job.
I say the more the merrier! There is much that needs to be done, there is too much pain and suffering in the world, and we are losing pressure resources and hours by fighting among ourselves, instead of actualizing the unique and diverse gifts each of us have. We have much more in common with one another than we have differences. There are ways to diminish the growing polarization and division. May we be willing to cast aside our protective and defensive postures, make a commitment to respect the dignity of each person we encounter, and strive to be people of virtue and integrity. Whoever is not against us is for us.
As this is the memorial of St Therese of Lisieux, may our starting point today be a willingness to, in the Little Flower’s words, do little things with great love. “I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations, that love is everything, that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting” (Liturgy of the Hours 1975, 1451). Let us surrender ourselves into the loving embrace of our God and Father, so to receive his love and be his love for one another.
The Liturgy of the Hours. NY: Catholic Book Publishing, 1975.