Readings for September 30, 2018
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
U.S. Collegiate sports, particularly at universities with successful sports teams, rely on a rabid base of alumni and others with connections to the school to follow the teams and generate revenue. When a coach or athletic director leaves the school, the search for a successor almost always begins with an appeal to find “one of us.”
It’s a pretty simple definition — “one of us” is someone who “knows the program” because they’ve been a student athlete, a coach, or an administrator. Schools use silly slogans like “we need someone who can steer the Tide,” or “someone who can lead Buckeye Nation,” or “someone who bleeds blue and gold!” At the beginning stages of a coaching search, the frenzy seems to pay less heed to qualifications for success than it does to find an emotional appeal to ticket buyers and donors.
Fortunately, Moses and Jesus do not need to collect ticket buyers and donors. Without being economically tethered, and being wise enough to keep open minds, Moses and Jesus have the ability to look beyond the “one of us” group.
Medad and Eldad were not present when the spirit was distributed among the elders, but when it is reported that they were prophesying Moses asks, “Are you jealous for my sake?” He then praises the prophesying as a good thing. Similarly, Jesus says, “anyone who is not against us is with us.” Both Moses and Jesus want the focus to be on the success of the mission rather than on the reputation or the resumé of those carrying out the mission.
The danger of the “one of us” mentality is its tendency toward quintessential group think, whereby I think only as the group thinks, speak only what the group accepts. Even in my faith life, it is easy to be consumed in my own holy huddles, accepting ideas and counting them as wisdom only from within a small group of trusted, like-minded believers. My bias toward the familiar can keep me from seeking, and finding, my heavenly reward. I need to be careful that the “in” crowd I trust is not among those who have, as St. James warns, “stored up treasure” only to keep it for ourselves.
God does not want me to be selfish in my belief. Jesus commands me to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:20) I cannot do so by only listening to those who think like me, or by only sharing my own beliefs with fellow Catholics. Admittedly, I prefer silent retreats and quietly reflecting on my faith. But there’s a reason that it is written, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) Sharing and discussing my faith with others, including those who think differently than me, is crucial to growing in my understanding of God.
Until all are one in God’s Kingdom, the “one of us” mentality is just a cover for discounting others. But God’s law is perfect and just, providing “wisdom to the simple” and I cannot be distracted from living out the life He has prepared me to live. The only program with which I need be familiar is the plan God has for my life. I must obey God’s will and follow Him by opening both my mind and arms to others.
My Lord God, may I trust in the simple wisdom you have provided me through Your Spirit. May I consider only Your law, follow only Your commands, as I live for the promises You have provided through the saving grace of Your Son, Jesus Christ. I ask this in Your name, through the power of Your Holy Spirit and made present to me in the salvation of Your Son. Amen