|The "Bush Doctrine" Becomes the "Jesus Doctrine."
The Seventh Wednesday of Ordinary Time; or, the Memorial of Saint John I, Pope & Martyr.*
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• James 4: 13-17.
• Psalm 49: 2-3, 6-11.
• Mark 9: 38-40.
Ember Wednesday of Pentecost.**
Lessons from the feria, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Acts 2: 14-21.
• Acts 5: 12-16.
• [Sequence] Veni, Sancte Spiritus…***
• [The Gradual is omitted.]
• John 6: 44-52.
Pentecost Wednesday; the Feast of the Holy Martyr Theodotus of Ancyra; the Feast of the Holy Martyrs Peter, Dionysius & their Companions; and, the Feast of the Holy Seven Virgins.
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Romans 1: 18-27.
• Matthew 5: 20-26.
9:01 AM 5/18/2016 — In the event recorded by Saint Mark in today's Gospel lesson, the Blessed Apostle John has seen some guy casting out demons in our Lord's name; and, because this man isn't a member of the apostolic “club,” he wants our Lord to stop him. Our Lord's correction of John does not surprise us, and His rebuke to the Apostle is what we've come to expect: “The man who is not against you is on your side” (9: 39 Knox [9: 40 NABRE]).† And, as if that wasn't enough, the very first line of today's lesson is as explicit as it can be, if you know enough to read it between the lines: “John said to him, 'Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us'” (v. 38 NABRE [v. 37 Knox]). Notice how he words it: not “he does not follow You,” but “he does not follow us.” The Apostles have allowed themselves to get so caught up in the excitement of the ministry that they're beginning to mistake their own will for the will of God; so, this is a problem our Lord has to nip in the bud, and He does.
Most likely, most of the homilies preached on these lessons around the country, taking their cue from our Holy Father's example,—judge that as you will—will focus on the whole idea of diversity as it relates to these Scripture passages, and how we must except everyone's unique gifts, and not exclude anyone because they're not like us, or speak our language, or see things our way. And all of that's very true. Fill in the blanks, blah, blah, blah.
But we have to live the whole of the Gospel, not just the portions made populist by current events and media reports of papal pronouncements, and there's a lot more to the lessons of today's Holy Mass than a call to be inclusive; for, if we were to continue reading beyond today's lesson in which our Lord rebukes the Apostles for trying to stifle the work of someone simply because he wasn't in their clubhouse, we would stumble upon those uncomfortable verses in which He also tells them to cut off a sinful hand, since it's better to go to heaven with one hand than go to hell with two; and, if you should loose custody of the eye, then pluck it out, since it's better to go to heaven with only one eye than to hell with two. And we hear that and say to ourselves, “He can't possibly mean that the way it sounds. And now I'll sit back and listen as Father explains, in his homily, how it's all just symbolic and that our Lord didn't really mean it that way.” But by what twist of logic do we take parts of the Holy Gospel—the parts that are all warm and fuzzy—and take them at face value, and dismiss the rest of it because it's too harsh for us to handle?
Of course, our Lord is not actually recommending that we cut off body parts, but neither can we separate parts of the Gospel from others to embrace some literally and others not so much. Our Lord's rebuke of the Apostles for trying to stop the non-Apostolic man from casting out demons, and his hyperbolic instruction in cutting off sinful body parts, we will read again later this year as one lesson about how to evaluate and regulate apostolic activity in the Church. Everybody in the Church, both in the time of the Apostles and now, has a different job. We have husbands, we have mothers, we have students, we have priests, we have bishops, we have teachers, with have popes. Each one has a job and duties suited to the state in life each occupies and the individual gifts and abilities bestowed on them by God. But even though each one's duties differ from another's, each one must still function within the framework, and the rules, established by the Church for everyone. Being different and having different roles to fill does not mean that each one is a Lone Ranger; and, when one of them, for whatever reason, goes off the rails, for the good of the whole he must be cut off.
Saint John Paul II had a general rule he used for judging whether someone's apostolic activity was helpful or harmful to the Church. Recognizing “the primacy given to the call of every Christian to holiness,” he said that the best indicator of the authentic nature of someone's activity for Christ was that it proclaimed and defended…
…the Catholic faith, embracing and proclaiming the truth about Christ, the Church and humanity, in obedience to the Church's Magisterium as the Church interprets it. For this reason every association of lay faithful must be a forum where the faith is proclaimed as well as taught in its total content.††
The two important words in that quote are “obedience” and “total”: obedience to the Church which alone has the authority, given to her by Christ Himself, to teach in His Name; and, total in proclaiming the whole of the truth taught by that Church, and not just the parts of the Catechism with which one personally agrees.
When the non-Apostolic exorcist was casting out demons and the Apostles wanted him stopped, what was it that indicated to our Lord that he was OK, other than the fact, of course, that our Lord is God and knows everything? Listen to the first verse again: “John said to him, 'Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name…'” (Mark 9: 38 NABRE). There's the indicator right there! The man was doing this in the Name of our Lord, not in his own name for his own benefit. It dovetails nicely with what we read in today's first lesson from James: “Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit'” (4: 13 NABRE). Whether the Apostles were tinged with jealously, or genuinely concerned for the integrity of the true faith we'll never know, and it's probably unfair of us to ascribe a motive to their attitude, as it could very well be the latter; but, the motive of the non-Apostolic exorcist is clear: everything he's doing is in the Name of the Lord. And even if, by circumstance, it had turned out that he was making some mistakes or saying a few things here or there that needed correction, that wouldn't have invalidated his entire ministry, because another indicator that his ministry is valid would then have been his willingness to accept correction from the Church. Nobody who works for or in the Church, priests included, is perfect; but, as our Lord Himself says, “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me” (v. 39). And, if you look at the Greek text of Mark, it's possible to translate that verse in the form of a question: “Is it likely that someone who does a deed in my name will speak ill of me?”††† Not very. And what's so scary about more people doing things in the Holy Name of Jesus?
When Joshua complained to Moses in the Book of Numbers about two elders who were prophesying on their own, Moses threw up his hands and shouted, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!” (Number 11: 29 NABRE). And wouldn't that be something: if every baptized Catholic became an apostle for the Church and the faith? But isn't that exactly what we are all called to be?
* Born in Tuscany, Pope St. John I introduced the Alexandrian computation for calculating the date of Easter, and led an embassy to Constantinople to discuss Emperor Justin's policy toward the Arian heretics. While returning to Rome he was kidnapped by the Arian king, Theodoric of Ravenna, and died there, ill and worn out from his travels. His remains were returned to Rome, and the epitaph on his tomb salutes him as a "victim for Christ."
** In the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, at the beginning of the four seasons of the year, the fast days known as "Ember Days" thank God for blessings obtained during the past year and implore further graces for the new season; and, their importance in the Church was formerly very great. They are fixed on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of specific weeks in their respective seasons: after the First Sunday of Lent for Spring, after Whitsunday (Pentecost) for Summer, after the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross (Sept. 14th) for Autumn, and after the Third Sunday of Advent for Winter. At one time, the Ember Days were obligatory days of fasting; this requirement was dropped in the Missal of St. John XXIII in 1962, but violet vestments are sill worn on Ember Days even when they occur outside the seasons of Advent and Lent, with the exception of the Ember Days that occur during the Octave of Pentecost.
The significance of the Ember Days as days of voluntary fasting is multiple: not only are they intended to consecrate to God both the liturgical seasons and the various seasons in nature, they also serve as a penitential preparation for those preparing for the Holy Priesthood. Ordinations in the extraordinary form generally take place on the Ember Days, and the Faithful are encouraged to pray on these days for good Priests.
Because all the days of the Octave of Pentecost, including the Ember Days, are ferias of the first class, all other commemorations falling on the same date are suppressed (in the case of today, the Third Class Feast of St. Venantius, a fifteen-year-old who was beheaded in AD 250) and the preces ordinarily said at Lauds and Vespers on Ember Days are not said.
*** Cf. the homily for Pentecost for a translation of the Sequence.
† There is a discrepancy in the numbering of the verses here between Kurt Aland's Greek text and the Latin text in the Vulgate; as a result, the Vulgate designates the first verse of today's lesson as verse 37, while Aland's Greek text shows verse 38. This particular verse is verse 40 in the NABRE, which agrees with Aland. Msgr. Knox's translation follows the Latin numbering. Cf. the second footnote in the post here for information about the Greek text used for citing the Scriptures on this site.
†† Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici, Dec. 30, 1988, art. 30.
††† Ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰωάννης: διδάσκαλε, εἴδομέν τινα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια καὶ ἐκωλύομεν αὐτόν, ὅτι οὐκ ἠκολούθει ἡμῖν.