Once there was a man who sat at a street corner day and night. He was blind, yet he always had a lantern with him. One night, a passer-by asked him why he kept the lantern glowing, even though he was blind. The blind man responded, “so that no one stumbles over me.” In last Sunday’s gospel reading, the disciples stumbled over their misunderstanding of greatness and Jesus taught them that greatness in God’s eyes is measured by humility and service to others. This Sunday, (Mark 9:38-50) the disciples stumble over their misunderstanding of belonging and discipleship.
The disciple John tells Jesus that someone, not numbered among His followers was “casting out demons in Your name.” They tried to stop him because “he was not following us.” The disciples were outraged that an outsider, someone who did not belong to the “in-group” was doing what Jesus did! Jesus introduced to the disciples and us an expanded concept of discipleship. He told his disciples not to stop the person. Belonging is not a clique-like exclusiveness. Instead, “whoever is not against us is for us.”
God’s mission to usher in the kingdom will be accomplished through all who offer themselves to serve others in Jesus’ name. Therefore, all who are furthering God’s kingdom belong. The service performed may be mighty, like casting out demons or as small as giving a disciple a cup of water, but all is done in Jesus’ name and for the glory of God. And the follower, doing all from a heart turned to God, will speak no ill of Jesus, only praise and honor.
Like the disciples, we stumble over our spiritual misunderstandings. We humbly petition our Lord for the gift of wisdom to discern our interior stumbling blocks that restrict our and others’ path to the kingdom.
We pray for the grace to willingly surrender all our ways, thoughts, and attitudes to God. We pray for the strength to break away, symbolically described as cutting off bodily parts, from all that impede our holiness and prevent us from serving in Christ’s name and welcoming all persons for the kingdom’s sake.
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, the power and the glory. Amen.