In this Gospel we find a statement regarding someone who seems to be working miracles in the name of Jesus but is not with the band of apostles. Sometimes, there may be the temptation to wonder why someone is speaking about a subject and can be so knowledgeable or is doing something that we had no idea they could do. See how Jesus explains in a way that is so simple yet so powerful. God knows the heart and intentions of people.
This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:
“At that time, John said to Jesus . . .”
It’s easy to romanticize the figure of John. Artists have depicted him leaning against the heart of Christ at the Last Supper, or gently supporting Mary at the foot of the cross. It’s hard to imagine that the preacher who will one day repeat over and over, “little children, love one another,” is the same man who tells Jesus in today’s Gospel, “. . . we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Obviously John didn’t always subscribe to the ideal of “love one another, ” but instead had an “us verses them” mentality.
“[W]e tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” John is thinking: “He’s one of them—he’s not one of us.” We can fall into this too, thinking, what is it about strangers? Worse yet, what is it about those people who grow up on the wrong side of town (or in the wrong ethnic group, or the wrong religion)? Perhaps we should ask: what is it about that makes us so cautious about ? Some people go so far as to start defining themselves in terms of their difference from those others. Have you ever met someone whose working definition of Catholicism was everything that is not Protestant—or vice versa? The minute we start claiming our identity by rejecting the “other,” we start to see the other as a threat.
How easily we stray from God’s approach of reconciling differences: “Do not prevent him . . . whoever is not against us is for us.” Yet this is not a attitude that condones any and all behaviors. Jesus goes on to speak of cutting off that which leads to sin. God’s plan of reconciliation has one exclusion—the exclusion of those who exclude themselves. Before the end of his life, John, the onetime “son of thunder,” learned the lessons of God’s love. What lesson do I need to learn today?
If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels in the Ordinary Grace series Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34