Rights and Responsibilities
Twenty First Sunday of Ordinary Time - B

Frank Enderle
Reproduced with Permission

Our Gospel Reading shows us how John approached Jesus and said to him, "We saw someone driving out demons in your name." The disciples had observed that the person who was driving out the demons did not belong to their group. Seeing this, they had prevented him from doing so. When the disciples told The Lord about this, He was not happy with what He heard. He did not think this was the right thing to do nor the appropriate action to take. This was intolerance. And, how could the Lord approve of the intolerance, the small-mindedness, that his disciples were showing?

From the beginnings of its existence, our Church has taught that no single group, no single person, has a monopoly on Christian spirituality. People who are intolerant, who show favoritism, or who have a desire for power should know that they must change before they can be welcomed into our Christian communities. All who enter into communion with us should be shown that in our Church all of us have to try to act as Jesus did. The Gospel Reading today makes this clear. We should always remember that the Church belongs to all of us and that all of us have rights and responsibilities. We cannot reject people simply because they do not share our same spirituality or do not follow Jesus in the same way that we do.

In our communities, in our parishes, in the universal Catholic Church, there is no room for the exclusion of people simply because we do not agree with their points of view. We are all part of the Body of Christ, the Church. We are all equal, no matter what the color of our skin, our ethnic group, our language or from which continent we come. We have an obligation to be kind to others and to welcome everyone equally. Christianity will flourish when people come to realize that we are a welcoming, kind and accepting community. And withinour communities there will only be peace when we leant to act with humility without trying to impose our own will on others, in a word, when we stop trying to dominate everyone and everything.

The apostles learned very well the lesson that Christ gave them about tolerance and acceptance. No one should try to give us lessons on this. Remember that the apostles led and unified the early Church by following the norms they had learned from the Master. Their charitable and patient attitude contributed greatly to the rise of our Catholic faith.

In our Second Reading, Saint James cautions us against power plays that can be symptoms of avarice, small-mindedness and a desire to dominate. He seriously warns us about the desires that many people have to enrich themselves taking advantage of others and cheating their brother and their sister. He exhorts us to cast aside the inordinate and sinful desire for money and power. He tells the rich that if they only worry about their riches, they run the risk of losing their souls. What James says is reason enough for us to think about what we are doing, to stop seeking to obtain more material things at whatever cost, especially more of those things that are not necessary for us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that we should practice the charity of the Lord in good and fraternal acts that will lead to heaven.

While we know that Our Lord always preached against intolerance, he did not say that we had to consent to sin or support those who do sin. Respecting the opinions of others even though they may not be the same as ours shows the tolerance that Christ taught. What we cannot tolerate is sin in whatever form it takes. Christ himself pardoned the sins of many people but he never made excuses for sinfulness.