Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (September 30): "Any one who does a mighty work in my name"

Scripture: Mark 9:38-43,45, 47-48   

    
38 John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us." 39 But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward.
    42 "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
    45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

Meditation: Do you rejoice in the good that others do? Jesus reprimands his disciples for their jealousy and suspicion. They were upset that someone who was not of their company was performing a good work in the name of Jesus. They even "forbade" the man "because he was not following us". Jesus' reply is filled with wisdom: "No one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me." Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good deeds of others who seem to shine more than us? Paul says that "love is not jealous... but rejoices in the right" (1 Corinthians 13:4,6).

Love does not envy others
Envy and jealousy, its counterpart, are sinful because they lead us to sorrow over what should make us rejoice - namely, our neighbor's good. The reason we may grieve over our another's good is that somehow we see that good as lessening our own value or excellence. Envy forms when we believe that the other person's advantage or possession diminishes or brings disgrace on us. Envy is contrary to love. Both the object of love and the object of envy is our neighbor's good, but by contrary movements, since love rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over it.

The love of God frees us from envy and jealousy
How can we overcome envy? With the love that God has put into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit purifies our heart and frees us from our disordered passions, such as envy, jealously, greed, and bitterness. God's love is a generous and selfless love which is wholly oriented towards our good. The love that God places in our hearts seeks the highest good of our neighbor. God's love purifies and frees us from all envy and jealousy - and it compels us to give generously, especially to those who lack what they need.

Love gives freely and generously in kind deeds
Every one in need has a claim on us because they are dear to God who created them in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). God created us in love for love. We are most free and happy when we love as he loves. The love and charitable help we show to our neighbor also expresses the gratitude we have for the abundant mercy and kindness of God towards us. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to those in need would not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is. Are you grateful for God's mercy and kindness towards you and are you ready to show that same kindness and generosity towards your neighbor?

Gregory of Nyssa, an early church father (330-395 AD), comments on this passage: "God never asks his servants to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of his Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnished to each person according to his will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: 'whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward'" (Mark 9:41). Ask the Lord Jesus to increase your generosity in doing good for others.

Those who show kindness and charity will be greatly rewarded
Who in their right mind would want to lose their reward and then be deprived of joy in the end? We have been given the greatest of rewards - God himself who is perfect love and source of abundant life and unending happiness. Paul the Apostle tells us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Romans 5:5). God's love purifies our hearts and compels us to express kindness and charity towards our neighbor who is created in the image and likeness of God. We were created in love for love. The charity we show to our neighbors in their need expresses the gratitude we have for the abundant goodness and kindness of God towards us. Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to the people of Christ will not lose its reward. Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is.

Gregory of Nyssa (330-395 AD), an early church father wrote:

"God never asks his servants to do what is impossible. The love and goodness of his Godhead is revealed as richly available. It is poured out like water upon all. God furnishes to each person according to his will the ability to do something good. None of those seeking to be saved will be lacking in this ability, given by the one who said: 'whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward'" (ON THE CHRISTIAN MODE OF LIFE 8.1)

Do you allow the love of Christ to transform your heart that you may treat your neighbor with loving-kindness and mercy?

Avoiding evil and the near occasion of sin
Was Jesus' exaggerating when he urged his followers to use drastic measures to avoid evil and its harmful consequences (Mark 9:42-47? Jesus set before his disciples the one supreme goal in life that is worth any sacrifice, and that goal is God himself and his will for our lives which leads to everlasting peace and happiness. Just as a doctor might remove a limb or some part of the body in order to preserve the life of the whole body, so we must be ready to part with anything that causes us to sin and which leads to spiritual death.

Jesus warns his disciples of the terrible responsibility that they must set no stumbling block  in the way of another, that is, not give offense or bad example that might lead another to sin. The Greek word for temptation (scandalon) is exactly the same as the English word scandal. The original meaning of scandal is a trap or a stumbling block which causes one to trip and fall. The Jews held that it was an unforgivable sin to teach another to sin. If we teach another to sin, he or she in turn may teach still another, until a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end. The young in faith are especially vulnerable to the bad example of those who should be passing on the faith. Do you set a good example for others to follow, especially the young?

"Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may radiate the joy of the Gospel to others. May your light and truth shine through me that others may find new life and joy in you, and freedom from sin and oppression."

Psalm 49:1-10

1  Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
2 both low and high, rich and poor together!
3 My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
4 I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.
5 Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me,
6 men who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?
7 Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life,
8 for the ransom of his life is costly, and can never suffice,
9 that he should continue to live on for ever, and never see the Pit.
10 Yes, he shall see that even the wise die, the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others.

A Daily Quote for the early church fathers: Encouraging good works done in Christ, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"We ought not be disturbed because some who do not belong or do not yet belong to this temple, that is, among whom God does not or does not yet dwell, perform some works of power, as happened to the one who cast out devils in the name of Christ (Mark 9:38, Luke 9:49). Although he was not a follower of Christ, Christ ordered that he be allowed to continue because it gave a valuable testimony of his name to many... The centurion Cornelius also saw the angel that was sent to him to say that his prayers had been heard and his alms accepted (Acts 10:3-4), even before he was incorporated into this temple by regeneration." (excerpt from  LETTER 187, TO DARDANUS 36)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use - please cite: copyright (c) 2018 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.


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