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 one of those handpicked by Jesus as one of the Twelve. This person casting out demons in Jesus’ name was not 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 the apostles 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 to the will of God. This was a consistent point Jesus pointed out to his followers time and time again. Being a disciple of Jesus had nothing to do with whether or not someone was in or out of their company, or whether or not 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 groupthink for its own sake. This is something we desperately need to get in our present-day and age. 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 willpower 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 of it as well.
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 precious resources and hours by fighting amongst ourselves, instead of actualizing the unique and diverse gifts each of us has. We have much more in common with one another than we have differences.
There are ways to diminish the growing polarization and division within and without of the Church and the best way to begin is to be willing to cast aside our protective and defensive postures, make a commitment to respect the dignity of each person we encounter and strive ourselves to be people of virtue, integrity, and holiness. Paraphrasing Jesus, whoever is not against us is for us.