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We Are All in this Together
Memorial of Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “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.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, I am filled with gratitude for this time I have with you. I struggle to settle myself before you, but here I am, and I know you are here as well. As I recognize your presence, I am struck by your great love for me. You choose to be here for me. You want to know my thoughts and feelings, my worries and successes. I believe that you hear and answer me. I trust in your goodness and kindness; my life is in your hands. Thank you, Lord, for your love that allows me to love you in return.
- He Does Not Follow Us: Despite the fact that the individual casting out demons was doing something objectively good, the disciples were upset because he wasn’t part of their group but was using Jesus’ name. We can reflect on times when we have had a similar reaction. Perhaps we were in charge of a program in our parish and someone else started something that felt like competition. Perhaps someone new to the parish suggested unsolicited changes to my project. At such times we might have wished we could do things our way! What do we do when we feel this way? We look to Christ.
- Do Not Stop Him: Jesus pointed out that if someone was acting in his name, that person could not speak against him. Collaboration rather than exclusivity is characteristic of the Kingdom. Collaboration requires that we be open to others and their ideas rather than being controlling or cliquish. In his first encyclical, Ad Petri Cathedram, the “Encyclical on Truth, Unity, and Peace, in a Spirit of Charity,” St. John XXIII wrote, “But the common saying, expressed in various ways and attributed to various authors, must be recalled with approval: in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity” (n. 72). There are many ways to build the Kingdom, and we must be united in that essential purpose. In Apostolicam Actuositatem, the “Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity,” the Second Vatican Council emphasized, “There are many forms of the apostolate whereby the laity build up the Church, sanctify the world, and give it life in Christ” (n. 16). Encouraging the freedom that allows for legitimate diversity, and praying for those works of God that come through others as well as rejoicing in their successes, are ways we help build the Kingdom.
- Whoever Is Not against Us Is for Us: Charity rejoices in others’ successes: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Jesus asks us to put aside competition and comparison to appreciate and affirm the gifts and talents of others. When we collaborate in charity, we make Christ present in the world in a visible way, for charity is the mark of Christians: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, when I reflect on this Gospel, I feel challenged to look at the way I see others’ efforts. Sometimes I feel threatened by others’ giftedness, their new ideas, or their successes. This shows me how attached I am to my own self-importance and the ways that I have served you. Lord, help me to remember that you called me into existence and that you love me for myself, not for anything I do for you. Give me purity of intention so that I serve you wholeheartedly. Free me from seeking recognition or a personal sense of value in what I do rather than in your love alone, and help me love my brothers and sisters who are also working to build up the Kingdom.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reach out to recognize and affirm someone in what he or she is doing to build up God’s Kingdom.
For Further Reflection: The USCCB offers a reflection on the role of the Church in today’s world.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.