The Disciple John was upset when he saw someone not of Jesus’ group doing exorcisms in the name of Jesus, saying to him.
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Likewise, in the reading from the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament, we hear Moses’ assistant, Joshua, say to Moses,
“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, …
Moses, my lord, stop them.”
The Lord had given Moses seventy elders to help him minister to the people.
The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses.
Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses,
the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders;
and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.
For some reason, Eldad and Medad were not present when the Holy Spirit came down upon the other 68 elders. However, they also received the same gift of the Spirit.
There are a lot of lessons here for us. It is obvious that we are witnessing something like the Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church after Jesus’ Resurrection, and upon believers even in the Old Testament.
Perhaps the most important lesson is that the Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit goes where He will. No one on earth commands the Holy Spirit. There are a lot of man-made rules on earth, but the Spirit is not affected or directed by any of them. Important lessons can be learned about the Holy Spirit from the responses of Moses and Jesus.
Moses responded to Joshua,
“Are you jealous for my sake?
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”
God loves all of us and wishes to come to everyone. In fact, Jesus founded the Church just so we would all have access to the Holy Spirit. He sent the Apostles to Baptize all nations, in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit blows through the Church.
Moses’ response about the Spirit, many centuries before the birth of Jesus, is a grand prophecy about the coming of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost, through the Church and the Sacraments.
Jesus’ response to St. John, who would become an Apostle and author of the Gospel, was,
“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.
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.
Many decades later, after Jesus’ Resurrection, we know that St. Paul would also be confronted by this matter when Apollos was preaching nearby.
A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus. He was an authority on the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and, with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. (John the Baptist)
Apollos was not a follower of St. Paul, nor a member of any of the Apostolic churches, but the Holy Spirit sent him forth after an encounter with John the Baptist. Later he encountered disciples of Paul who had him baptized with the Sacrament of the Church, Christian Baptism, in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Later, Paul would recognize Apollos as a fellow preacher of Christ, saying,
What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers* through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
God causes the growth. We do not, but the Holy Spirit does.
There is a lesson of tolerance here. We do not control God or the Holy Spirit. The role of the Church is obedience to Jesus Christ and as witness to the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. All too often, we Roman Catholics get caught up in a misguided intolerance regarding other churches. Yes, Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church. However, the Eastern Churches are also “Apostolic Churches”. They can also claim that their church was founded by Jesus Christ. The Maronite Church over on 51st Street is an older Christian, Catholic Church, older than the Church of Rome, because it is a Apostolic Church, founded by the apostles in Palestine, beginning at Antioch in Syria. Their official language is Aramean or Syriach. Their Sacraments are valid and their clergy is ordained, and loyal to the Bishop of Rome, just like we are. They can also say that their church was founded by Jesus Christ. We are in the same Church, just with different traditions.
Protestant Churches are recognized as “churches”, believers in Jesus Christ and Sacred Scriptures, even though they lack the Sacraments. They lack the Eucharist and the priesthood. We must be clear about our differences but recognize them as brothers in Christ. We must learn to grow in tolerance and grow beyond the judgements that tempt us, like Joshua and John when they saw others prophesying, and resented it.
The Holy Spirit moves where He wills. We must learn to recognize Him.
Just a quick comment on the final verses in today’s Gospel from St. Mark. Jesus says,
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And the same for your feet, or your eye. We know that semitic cultures often exaggerate to make a point. There was a priest, a famous theologian in the early third century, Origen of Alexandria in Egypt. Origen had a great influence on the early church. Origen is not recognized as a saint of the Church, likely because of the way he heard this Gospel of Mark. Origen is said to have castrated himself to follow the Gospel, taking this Gospel way too far. The Church does not approve of self-mutilation. But, we do understand just how serious is sin, and how strongly Jesus felt about sin.