Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year B
John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.’
‘If anyone gives you a cup of cold water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’
‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’
Jesus differentiates between people who are sympathetic to his mission and those who place obstacles in its way. People who “are for us” include those who would help a disciple and those who don’t actively oppose what the disciples are doing.
Jesus effectively creates a continuum of commitment, which stretches from the full-on commitment of his most dedicated followers to those who are neutral to those who actively obstruct his mission. A person may be anywhere on that continuum. Jesus has a very positive attitude towards those who are neutral and those who might show small signs of interest in his message.
Jesus is very tolerant about where people are on their faith journey, more tolerant than perhaps some committed Christians are. People come to him in their own time, in their own way and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Commitment can be expressed quite differently in the varying circumstances of people’s lives.
The committed can be very annoyed by those who attend Mass but do not participate further in parish life, the parents who put their child in a Catholic school but who do not attend Mass, the person who only goes to Mass occasionally or the practising Catholic who dissents from aspects of Church teaching.
Only Jesus knows where people are on their faith journey and the true circumstances of their lives. Managing other people’s faith journeys can be left to him. Praying on the sidelines is fine, and it is particularly good to rejoice in and be positive about any step a person takes, rather than passing judgement on what they have not done. If Jesus could adopt a glass-half full approach to others as they struggle with life and faith, then who are we to be glass half-empty people, focusing on the negative?
Jesus did not tolerate sin. His instructions are precise and dramatic. Our tolerance of others does not extend to tolerating sin in our own lives. Rather than passing judgement on others, our first task is to address what lies within ourselves.