In His name- Wednesday, 7th week in ordinary time- Mk 9:38-40
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and has just predicted his passion, death and resurrection for the second time. He has given his disciples a second teaching on what discipleship is all about and used a child to make more than just a point.
The two verses that make up today’s Gospel seem to be a bit misplaced, for if you have your Bible in your hand and read verse 42 after 37 the two would flow seamlessly, as if Jesus continued to use the little child to explain his teaching. Many scholars have opined that perhaps these two verses were introduced because it reflected an issue that ailed Mark’s community.
The key words in verse 37 are the words, “in my name” and these words seem to attract the following episode of today’s Gospel about exorcism in Jesus’ name. The mention of ‘the name’ appears three times in this text and is used in relation to casting out a demon. So is this text only centred on demonic possession or is there more to it?
For Mark the battle against Satan, demons or unclean spirits is a central theme of his Gospel. So far we have encountered three incidences in the Gospel of demonic possession; this being the fourth. Jesus’ first public act was to cast out the unclean spirit from a man in the synagogue in Capernaum (Mark 1:21-28) followed by another incident in 5:7 and then in 9:14-18 when his disciples (nine of them were unable to cast out a spirit from a child).
The second passion prediction and teaching on discipleship( yesterday’s Gospel) is preceded and followed by incidents of demonic possession; the boy with the spirit (8:14) and today’s narration of the man casting out demons in Jesus’ name. How then is this demonic possession resolved? Mark introduces THE name of Jesus as part of the teaching on discipleship as a means to overpower Satan. It is by this name alone that the evil one is vanquished.
So what seems to be the problem of the disciples in today’s Gospel vis-à-vis the man who is casting out demons in Jesus’ name? On reading the text in the context, It’s difficult not to call the apostles a bunch of whining losers for it seems more like a case of sour grapes. Since they could not cast the spirit out of the boy in 8:14, they seem to make an issue with one who could do so successfully and their only grouse and justification is that he “ is not following them.”
This most certainly must have been an issue that St Mark’s community faced. Should only those in the fold have the prerogative to use the name of Jesus? Christ is clear, if his name defeats the evil one then so be it; even if it is used by someone who is not of our denomination or religious belief.
The battle against evil is not the prerogative of any one single Church and while the means and method must be in keeping with the norms set by Christ the effort to defeat Satan must welcome everyone who shares the mind of Christ.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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