26th Sunday Homily in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
By: Rev. Fr. Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.
Homily for Sunday September 26 2021
The Gospel for this Sunday (Mark 9:38-41) depicts one of those moments in the life of Jesus Christ that, even if only briefly mentioned, carries profound significance for contemporary Christians, especially for us Catholics today. The observation of Apostle John was an opportunity for Jesus Christ to teach that the gifts and blessings of God are not exclusive to his “known” followers. Moreover, God can work good and even miraculous things through his “anonymous” followers. Additionally, there are numerous ways to support the cause for the Kingdom of God, including simply offering a glass of water to a missionary.
The message of today’s Gospel began when the Apostle John approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us”(Mark 9:38). I can only imagine the zeal with which the young Apostle John defended their master’s good name. Jesus’ response, on the other hand, is extremely pertinent for contemporary Christians, particularly Catholics. “Do not prevent him” Jesus says. “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” Besides this, he states unequivocally, “For whoever is not against us is for us.” Additionally, he adds a lovely dimension to supporting the cause of the Kingdom of God “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward” (Mark 9:40-41).
In the Catholic theological tradition, a distinction between three types of groups is frequently made. Individuals who are fully incorporated into the Catholic Church, those who are not fully incorporated into the Church, and those who practice other non-Christian religions. Throughout history, people have grappled with the issue of salvation outside of the Catholic Church. In our time, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council resolved that question through their magisterial teaching.
Alternatively, the phrases “full communion with the Catholic Church,” “not in full communion with the Catholic Church,” and “not in communion with the Catholic Church” are frequently used to refer to the aforementioned distinctions. Nonetheless, what does the Catholic Church mean by these phrases?
The Catholic Church teaches that those who are in full communion with her are those who “possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops” (Lumen Gentium n. 14). Thus, full and visible communion, or, more precisely, full incorporation into the Catholic Church, presupposes acceptance of the profession of faith, the seven sacraments, the ecclesiastical government of the Catholic Church, and communion.
What about those who either do not accept or accept some but not all of the teachings of the Catholic Church? Can God work wonders through them? And this is where Jesus’ answer to the Apostle John is so relevant for contemporary Catholics. Yes, “For Whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40). The Catholic Church recognizes her link with other ecclesial communities especially through the Sacred Scriptures, baptism, and the Holy Spirit. And for other non-Christian religions (Nostra aetate, 2), the Church sees whatever good, or truth found amongst them as a preparation for the Gospel (Lumen Gentium nos. 15-16). Jesus says, “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41).
Nevertheless, the Catholic Church is opposed to any form of religious relativism. That is, one religion is equally as good as the other. She is unequivocal in her assertion that the Church founded by Jesus Christ “subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” (Lumen Gentium, 8). And that Jesus continues to touch lives today through her. Despite this, she recognizes that Jesus works miracles through those who have not yet accepted him or been fully incorporated into the Catholic Church.
Additionally, the Catholic Church teaches that the “many elements of sanctification and truth” (Lumen Gentium, 8) which exist in other churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with her “derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 3). As a result, if a stranger to the Christian community performs good deeds in the name of Christ or gives you a cup of water to drink because you are a Christian as long as he or she does so with upright intentions and with respect, we should not oppose or even feel jealous of him or her but should rejoice because “whoever is not against us is for us.”
Regrettably, some Christians, including Catholics, struggle to appreciate and value the accomplishments of Jesus Christ through other nonchristian religions. And, shamefully, they regard the miracles and good works done in the name of Jesus Christ in Christian denominations other than their own as fictitious or even fraudulent.
Dear friends in Christ, as is the case in the Catholic Church, other Christian denominations, as well as in other religions such as the African Traditional Religion, there are numerous men and women endowed by God with stellar gifts such as the gifts of prophecy, healing powers, among others. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,” Saint James (1:17) reminds us, “coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Let us remember that God’s gifts and blessings are not tied to any particular religion or denomination. God loves all of his children equally and unconditionally and bestows his blessings and gifts on them according to his will (Acts 10:45).
Thus, today’s Gospel challenges us to begin to appreciate the blessings and gifts of God wherever we see them. For God is capable of working miracles through non-Christian believers, including those of other religions. Today’s Gospel also serves as a reminder to all of us to examine our tolerance and appreciation for other Christians and religions.
Finally, I invite you to make these words of Jesus a program of life, “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” (Mark 9:40). And may these words resound in our hearts through Christ, our Lord. Amen.