Gospel Lectio Divina for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sept 26, 2021
At that time, John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us." Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'"
in your name
[A]t the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” St. Paul said in Phillippians 2:10. John’s concern was ungrounded because the mere name of Jesus is enough to drive away evil, when used properly. What a shame it is, then, when we use it in vain. When we use Jesus’ name outside of prayer, we are mocking its power. Not only are we failing to acknowledge the potency in the mere name of Jesus when we use it in vain, but we disregard the sacrifice he made to free us from sin. But the person in this week’s Gospel is not using Jesus’ name in vain. In fact, they are using it exactly the way Christ intends for us to use it. We can use Jesus’ name to cast away demons as well. Demons do more than possess people. They influence from a distance, they whisper in our ears, they tempt, confuse, mock, accuse, and brew up hatred. Against all of these tricks of devils, we can call upon Jesus to rescue us and others. Do not be afraid. Christ has already conquered them, and the demons know it. Going to Jesus and repenting is a mighty deed, and Jesus will never turn away someone who performs a mighty deed in his name.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
In Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23, Jesus says “He who is not with me is against me.” It would make sense that the reverse is also true, but how often do we think of it that way? Whether we are inside the Church looking out on nonbelievers, or a nonbeliever looking in, it seems like we take the approach that we’re either in or out. We either believe in Jesus or we don’t. While that is true, it’s hard to believe in Jesus all of the time. So it’s foolish to think we’re officially against him once we act against him, because he will always welcome us back. Many people stay away from the Church because they believe God can never forgive them for all the sins they’ve committed. But no sin and no number of sins are greater than God’s mercy, and if we are in favor of him forgiving us then so is he. In a way, asking God to forgive us is casting out demons in his name, because we are asking him to cast out the demons that have plagued our own lives. So do not ignore that tug to come back to Christ, no matter what you’ve done in the past. Encourage others to pay attention to it too. God always wants us to come back, no matter how “against” us we think he is.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
This may sound like hyperbole, but it’s not because our hand is not what causes us to sin. Nor do our feet or even our eyes cause us to sin. The decision to sin is first made in our hearts, so it is our hearts that cause us to sin. While Jesus may not be telling us to literally tear out our hearts, he is telling us to do so in a spiritual sense. He calls us to become a new creation altogether in fact, if we are to follow him. This new life in Christ is going to require some serious lifestyle changes. If TV is causing me to sin, I should stop watching it. If the internet is causing me to sin, I should stop using it. If there’s a relationship in my life that’s causing me to sin, I should end it. It’s better for my leisure time and social life to suffer a little than it is for my soul to suffer the pains of hell forever. So in a very real sense, if there is something in my life causing me to sin, I need to cut it out.
God of all,
Nothing compares to what you offer us. None of the pleasures of this life come close to having a relationship with you in heaven. Thank you for showing me its worth, and help me to value it above all things. Teach me how to teach others the Way, the Truth and the Life, and let the witness of my own life be their teacher. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.
God watches us and admires every way we give him praise. Let’s use our lives to do just that, to praise him. Then we will see his will prevailing in our lives. If we turn our eyes to him instead of toward sin, we will see his glory. But so often we choose sin over him, thinking it’s the better choice. It never is. Have faith and seek him everywhere you go. He will not disappoint.
Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.