Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 “Tolerance”

Gospel, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-4838 
John said to him, ‘Master, we saw someone who is not one of us driving out devils in your name, and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’

39 But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him; no one who works a miracle in my name could soon afterwards speak evil of me.

40 Anyone who is not against us is for us.

41 ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

42 ‘But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone hung round his neck.

43 And if your hand should be your downfall, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that can never be put out.

45 And if your foot should be your downfall, cut it off; it is better for you enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.

47 And if your eye should be your downfall, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell

48 where their worm will never die nor their fire be put out.

This Sunday, Jesus teaches us about tolerance. Tolerance (or ‘pagpaparaya’ in Filipino) is often associated with being permissive. Being tolerant or permissive is suspect; it has to be checked if it could lead to abuse of freedom or to violent consequences. A mother, who is not able to correct her children’s bad behaviour early in life, is being tolerant in a wrong way. Tolerance could also be right in other cases. In fact, it would be a big mistake to view tolerance in its negative value only.

In the gospel, Jesus asks his disciples to be tolerant. If tolerance were not good, why would Jesus require such from his disciples? As narrated, it started when after the disciples ‘saw someone driving out demons’ in the name of Jesus, they prevented him from performing exorcism because he did not belong to the followers of Jesus.

We could only surmise what were in the minds of the disciples. Were they jealous because the man could also cast demons though he was not one of them? Were they angry because they have assumed that the power to exorcise demons was a privilege given only to the followers of Jesus and not to any other person? The disciples were confused. Suddenly, what they have thought to be their exclusive right was no longer their own alone.

Jesus had his reasons: ‘Do not prevent him,’ he said, ‘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.’ With these words, Jesus has taught his disciples about tolerance more as an exercise of Christian humility and charity.

This teaching is so relevant for us today. We should not think that salvation is reserved only for us who were baptized and who believe in Christ. Membership to his Church, faith, and the sacraments are still considered the ordinary ways to receive salvation, but this does not exclude the possibility that God could offer other ways of bringing people to encounter the ‘paschal mystery of Christ’ in their lives. Like the outsider who performed exorcism in the name of Jesus, we have to understand that it is really Jesus who is the true source of salvation; the rest is just his medium.

Jesus calls us to religious tolerance, as long as it is not against him and his teachings. It is prudence perhaps that sometimes makes us doubt whether something or someone should be tolerated or not. However, Jesus challenges us towards religious tolerance so that individually we also learn to discern about the faith we have received: what is truly to follow Christ, how is it really to belong to him, what does it really mean to be a Catholic? In the answers our salvation is found.


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