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Artwork displayed at the main hall of the headquarters of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, in Bogota.


Mark 9: 38-40.

At the end of chapter nine, St Luke develops the path of the Messiah. In this passage we have seen Jesus at home, in Capernaum. In the context of the teaching on service: Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” John appears, not to raise a question to the Master, but to share a fact. Juan did not ask: Lord, if by chance we ever see someone, who is not from our group, casting out a demon in your name, would it be okay for us to forbid it? First, let us note, the audacity of the presumption of believing oneself to be unique in a group of those who come with us:” the presumptuous person does not take decisions into consideration, but rather takes his own opinion for granted, without taking into account who has authority. Lets add to this is that presumption does not listen, its mediated by the noise of one's own erroneous convictions. The presumptuous person does not open his arms to the hospitality of others because he first closed his ears to the voice of the Master who said: be servants of all.

The presumptuous person is surprised by envy due to the paradox: One who is not one of us, one of those who walks with us, has managed to do what we could not. In fact, a few verses ago, Mark told us that, when Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, from where he was accompanied by Peter, James and John, he found his disciples arguing with some teachers of the law because they had not been able to expel a mute and deaf spirit that afflicted a young man. Jesus, claiming the virtue of faith from the boy's father, frees him, revitalizes him by raising him up and forbids the spirit to return. The authority of Jesus is expressed in service. Asked about the ineffectiveness to disciple, the Lord answers, This type of spirit can only be expelled using prayer.” We ask ourselves, then, did those who expelled the demon, although they were not from the group of disciples, succeed because they prayed more and better? Did they have more faith? Where had they met Jesus?

So the presumption does not take into account the experiences lived, the paths taken, but is self-referential and single-issue.

We all have this temptation to believe in a numerus clausus,” a closed group that manipulates the Holy Spirit to its liking. This group does not allow itself to be inspired, but rather orders, informs, and decides, without taking Him into account.

I invite you to ask the Lord for three graces in this ecumenical celebration:

Know how to listen to the Master. Let us ask once again that his words touch the deepest fibres of our hearts. We are professionals of the spoken word, but how much closure can there be in our minds if we have not personally encountered who The Word made flesh is. The teaching prior to this episode was service-centred, so that: Lord, may I not seek to appear, to be the first, the main one, the one most taken into account, but let me be surprised by the graces that come from smallness and humility. This request also has an ecumenical scope: The church is one, so particular churches and ecclesial communities should not assume titles for themselves that do not come from service. One might say: I am the oldest, but another might answer: I am the holiest.  Yet another: I am the one who works the most with those in need. And Another: I am the one who helps the poor the most. By destroying the presumptions that make us unequal, we will find ourselves on the same horizon of the imitation of Christ.

The grace of knowing how to consult Jesus through the mediations that he has left in the Church: the Word, the sacraments, prayer, the ministry. Do not make decisions without consultation, like John and his peers did, because one's own judgment is biased and can be the worst advisor. Ecclesiasticus 32:19 already warned us: Do nothing without deliberation, but when you have acted, do not regret it.” The Word discerns because it is a double-edged sword; the sacraments encourage discernment; Prayer is a school of hope to resolve any doubt; The ministry of leaders is a calm and serene confirmation of acting in communion. Lord, may I never make hasty, uninformed, prejudiced decisions. Teach me to follow your example of serenity and peace in discernment.

The grace of learning to walk together rereading history with hope, overcoming the temptation to want to ingratiate yourself with Jesus through exclusion, stigmatization and discrimination. Paul also believed that by persecuting Christians he gave glory to God. This strong temptation is overcome through openness and assimilation, of mind and heart, to unity in diversity. In Fratelli tutti, Pope Franciss encyclical on fellowship and social friendships, he insists that we must see in the dynamisms of history the richness of multiple diversities, aimed at forming a community composed of brothers and sisters who welcome and care about each other” (96), and Jürgen Moltmann, who died on 3 June, masterfully expressed that the messianic hope in a future for the earth [...] encompasses both the expected and the wait enlivened by it” [Theology of hope. Introduction]. With the theologian, we understand that we cannot wait for very new things to be fulfilled, that personal eschatology, to return to the real unity of Christian communities. It is here and now, in the future of history, that hope acts by uniting as a prelude, but also as evidence that its essence is not to disappoint (cf. Romans 5:5). Let us not be an obstacle to hope.

About the author :

Fr. Raúl Ortiz Toro serves as Deputy Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia.


The impressions expressed in the blog posts are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.