27Feb 27 February. Wednesday of Week 7

1st Reading: Sirach 4:11-19

Seeking wisdom brings happiness and reveals life’s deepest secrets

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.

Responsorial: Psalm 118:165, 168, 171-2, 174-5

Response: O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.

The lovers of your law have great peace;
they never stumble. I obey your precepts and your will;
all that I do is before you. (R./)

Let my lips proclaim your praise
because you teach me your statutes.
Let my tongue sing your promise
for your commands are just. (R./)

Give life to my soul that I may praise you.
Let your decrees give me help.
Lord, I long for your saving help
and your law is my delight. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 9:38-40

Jesus corrects the apostles for blocking outsiders from acting in his name

John said to Jesus, “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 nobody 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 and moderation

While Sirach, the wise old head of a Jerusalem school of practical philosophy, tends towards caution and prudence, the gospel message for today reaches outward almost with abandon, “Anyone who is not against us is with us.”

It is generally agreed that wisdom is a quality that is dearly won, and whose acquisition depends on often painful experience, making it seem distant and difficult to master. 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.” He knows that wisdom is not a neat set of ideas and a dictionary of facts; rather it blends and integrates ideas with practice, and enables us to live with and respond to one another as persons. We are not automatons, pushed around by laws; instead, we interact with patience and forbearance, with interest and enthusiasm, with responsibility and self-control. This kind of wisdom has to be grown into, slowly and carefully, so that it becomes totally ourselves. Sirach puts it this way: If we trust wisdom, we will possess her; and our descendants too will inherit her.

As a man of wisdom, Jesus reprimanded his disciples for their envy and fear. Feeling threatened, or at least 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.” But his reply was decisive, based on his unique wisdom. He did not inquire about the doctrinal position of the other man but landed on solid, common sense ground. “No one can perform a miracle in my name and at the same time speak ill of me. Anyone who is not against us is with us.” Such a response, totally free of envy and fear, totally relaxed with nothing to lose, is not easily learned, but is the fruit of wise reflection. It reflects a person at peace, and therefore strong and secure.

Wise persons are rooted in genuine values, not persons who quickly make their profit and move off somewhere else. If we walk life’s path with wisdom, we become relaxed, generous and trustful, and walk along that path with Jesus.

Avoiding an “Us-and-Them” outlook

The disciples had a polarised, black and white view of people. Only those who were “one of us,” as they put it, could be trusted to do the Lord’s work. Jesus had a much more nuanced view of people than his followers. He could see that even those whom he had not formally called to become one of his disciples could be doing God’s life-giving work. Indeed, he makes the very generous spirited statement, “Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

This is a lesson to take to heart in the times in which we live. There are a lot of people who are not explicitly for the church, in the sense of practising their faith in the way we have come to understand that, and, yet, they are not against the church either. The spirit of today’s gospel is that we work to build bridges with all those who in some way share the church’s mission to bring life where there is death, wholeness where there is brokenness, relief where there is suffering. We can be partners in mission with those who are “not one of us” in the strict sense. In these times we need the vision Jesus displays in today’s gospel rather than that displayed by his followers.

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