22May 22 May, 2013. Wednesday of the Seventh Week

Sir 4:11ff. The following of wisdom which brings happiness and reveals life’s deepest secrets.

Mk 9:38ff. Jesus corrects the apostles for blocking an outsider from casting out devils in his name.

First Reading: Sirach 4:11-19

Wisdom teaches her children and gives help to those who seek her.

Whoever loves her loves life, and those who seek her from early morning are filled with joy.
Whoever holds her fast inherits glory, and the Lord blesses the place she enters.
Those who serve her minister to the Holy One; the Lord loves those who love her.
Those who obey her will judge the nations, and all who listen to her will live secure.
If they remain faithful, they will inherit her; their descendants will also obtain her.
For at first she will walk with them on tortuous paths; she will bring fear and dread upon them, and will torment them by her discipline until she trusts them, and she will test them with her ordinances.
Then she will come straight back to them again and gladden them, and will reveal her secrets to them.
If they go astray she will forsake them, and hand them over to their ruin.

Gospel: Mark 9:38-40

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.

Wisdom is not a monopoly

While Sirach, the wise old head of a Jerusalem college of philosophy, tends towards caution and prudence , the gospel message for today reaches outward almost with abandon, “Whoever  is not against us is with us.” It is generally agreed that wisdom is a quality dearly won, whose acquisition depends on hard work and sometimes painful experience. Sirach recognizes this with poetic flair: “Wisdom walks with us at first as a stranger, and she puts us to the test; Fear and dread she brings on us and tries us with her discipline. With her precepts she puts us to the proof, until our heart is fully with her.” But neither is wisdom a neat set of ideas and a dictionary of established theology; rather it blends and integrates ideas with practice, and enables one to blend old ideas with the spirit of our own age. It is not a monopoly to be jealously guarded by a clerical caste, nor is it commended by the tactics of a repressive Inquisition. We are not automatons, pushed around by laws; instead, we interact with life through patience and humility, interest and enthusiasm, acting with responsibility and self-control. This kind of wisdom has to be grown into, slowly and carefully, so that it becomes integral to ourselves.

As a man of wisdom, Jesus reprimands his disciples for their narrow fearfulness in the face of a potential rival. Feeling slighted by some villager who went about using the name of Jesus to expel demons, they said indignantly to Jesus, “We tried to stop him, because he is not of our company!” Their idea of a centralised authority which must be consulted about everything was not what Jesus wanted. He did not ask about the other man’s doctrinal position but  used the common sense argument, “No one can perform a miracle in my name and at the same time speak ill of me. Whoever is not against us is with us.” Such a response, totally free of narrow dominance, totally relaxed about letting others use their gifts freely, is not easily learned, but is the fruit of wise reflection. Its consistent adoption throughout the Church would be a great help in promoting the New Evangelisation, in the name of Jesus.