Domesticating God's Love
is a story about two business men who were great rivals. When one got
a computer the other got two. When one got a cellular phone the other
got two. When one built a storehouse the other built two. One day an
angel appeared to one of them and offered, "you can ask for anything
you like and you will get it. However, your rival will get two of whatever
you ask for?" "You mean" he asked, "if I asked for
$1,000,000 I would get it?" "Yes you would get it." answered
the angel, "but your rival will get $2,000,000."
and rivalry are to be found everywhere that there are people, but in
some way they are the special vices of religious and so-called holy
people. I have known many 'holy' people who were doing good work but
who got most upset when others did the same. There are some who establish
fiefdoms of loving, but woe betide the person who steps into that fiefdom
unannounced or uninvited. St. John of the Cross used to say that spiritual
riches can be just as destructive and - more subtly so - than material
riches. A business man may be openly working to make money and a politician
openly seeking power - but a cleric may be seeking a bishopric through
a self-seeking loyalty, or a sister seeking adulation through her apparent
self-sacrificing zeal for the poor. Both of them can at the same time
be seething with jealousy towards anyone who may appear to be a rival
on their "turf."
we be surprised that these things happen? If we are we have not read
the Bible, the book that never hides the human weakness of its heroes.
We find jealousy raising its ugly head among the disciples in today's
gospel. They want to domesticate God's liberating love and make themselves
its sole distributors.
said to him, 'Master, we saw a man who drove out demons by calling upon
your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.'
Jesus answered, 'Do not forbid him, for no one who performs a miracle
in my name can soon after speak evil of me. For whoever is not against
us is for us.'"
is interesting that it is John, the beloved disciple - the 'good boy'
of the apostles - who raises this issue. It is a very painful one for
the disciples. Earlier in the chapter Mark has told us of a man who
appealed to Jesus' disciples to free his son from a spirit of dumbness.
This anxious father told Jesus: "I asked your disciples to cast
it out but they were unable to." The disciples, already peeved
at being unsuccessful exorcists, now see an outsider successfully driving
out a devil in Jesus' name. They are jealous that this man is functioning
where they failed and they hope that Jesus will refuse to recognize
him and even condemn him. It is as if their own self-esteem will be
reinforced if the outsider is rejected. But Jesus is not threatened
by goodness outside his own circle; he does not try to domesticate the
doing of good. As he refuses to box in goodness, he invites his fragile
insecure disciples to a wider vision, to a recognition of God's goodness
no matter where it is to be found.
lesson is still valuable for us today. The cause of Christ is not served
by rejecting other ways to God. The cause of Christianity is not helped
by those who claim that no real good can happen beyond the boundaries
of one's denomination or persuasion. We can all take pride in the good
done by our community without denigrating the good work of those who
are "not one of us."
The road to tolerance begins within. If our prayers are principally aimed at getting what we want from God we will be jealous of those who seem to have got more than us. But if we can pray with open hearts - without words or images, just be present in thankful trust - we can become open people and can rejoice in the good done by others and to others.
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