A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark:
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 if 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.’”
The apostles saw people doing good in Jesus’s name.
All good is done in that Name. No one is good except the Father, and the Father and Jesus are One. Good is Goodness Himself, the Good from which all Good flows, and nothing good can be done without God at the origin and God in the fruition. So, someone was trying to drive out an evil spirit that was tormenting somebody. He was trying to do some good in the world, in the Name of Jesus.
The apostles tried to put a stop to it, because the do-gooder didn’t belong to them, and they still do.
They went to Jesus expecting praise, as they still do.
And Jesus laid down the law, as the Father had before Him on Sinai. 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.
This is an everlasting law. From the beginning until the end of time, nobody can do a good deed in the name of Good and at the same time slander God. Whenever a good deed is done, that glorifies God. A person who calls God by a different name than we do, or who doesn’t believe in God at all, still glorifies God by the good that they do. A person who thinks the Gospel is mythology or lies, but who lives in accordance with the Gospel, glorifies the Name of Christ. A person who has come to believe in Christ but also believes all kinds of heresy and lies about Him, still manifests a true icon of Christ to the world when that person does good. All of us who stumble and fail– and all of us have failed– we all glorify Christ, when we repent and strive to do good.
Everyone who gives a cup of cold water to a sister or brother to drink, because that person belongs to Christ– and everyone who has ever lived belongs to Christ, and everyone who has given water has given water in the name of Christ– all of them will be rewarded. None will be forgotten. They were not against Him, so they were for Him, and He will remember them in the end.
The opposite is true as well. If you preach the Gospel with your lips, if you call God by His most proper name and denounce every heresy, even if you are God’s apostle, you cannot do evil and have it be in God’s name. If you do something evil, you do it in another name, and you are not for Him– therefore, you are against Him.
If you cause a little one to sin against Him, you are lost. If you break and mutilate a child of God until they cannot believe in goodness anymore, you are lost. If you torment and humiliate a child of God until they cannot see light anymore but only darkness, you are lost. If you teach an innocent one that their longing for love will be met with ridicule and cruelty, you are lost. If you teach a generous one that goodness is foolish and impractical and they really ought to worship at the altars of mammon and greed, you are lost. If you teach them that giving a cup of cold water away is stupid and childish, and that being a grown-up means charging money for water, you are lost. If you teach them that the good they try to do is worthless because it is so small, you are lost. If you teach them that it isn’t really from God but from naivete, you are lost. We don’t know if that child you manipulated will be lost. I don’t think they could possibly be. I think God will save them in spite of you. But unless you repent, you will be lost. The place you’ve voluntarily chosen to go is so terrible, if you knew what it was you would rather be thrown into the sea with a millstone around your neck than take one more step.
In that place, the worm does not die, but is constantly devouring. The fire is not quenched, but it constantly consuming. Forever and ever, that place is hungry. Every step you take toward that place is a step toward hunger, thirst, unquenchable desire. God does not want that for you. He wants you to be full of good things.
If your foot causes you to walk into that terrible place, far better to cut it off. If your eye causes you to stare longingly at that place of destruction, better to never look at anything again. Fortunately for you, your eye and foot are not the problem. The problem is in your heart.
Repent of your sin. Forgive the one who taught you to sin. Stop teaching others to sin. Repent, and return to the Gospel. Do all the good you can, in the name of the One Who is Good. Give a cup of cold water to one person who belongs to Christ– that is, to everyone who is thirsty.
This is the everlasting law, spoken by God to His apostles. Whoever is not against Him is for Him. Whoever causes the little ones to sin will be lost. Whoever gives a cup of water will be rewarded.
Fortunately for us, it’s not too late to get it right.
image via pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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