Readings: James 4:13-17, Ps. 49:2-3,6-11, Mark 9:38-40

“Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live, and we shall do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:15-16)

In the concluding sentence of yesterday’s First Reading, St. James said: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” On this note of humility, James reflects on how we easily become arrogant in the name of planning for the future. We often forget that we are not entirely in charge of our lives; we forget to pray or deliberately leave God out of the picture. We only remember God when things go sour. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus’ disciples, in the spirit of arrogance, closed down the ministry of a man casting out demons in Jesus’ name because he didn’t have a “membership card.” Let us now consider today’s lessons in detail:

1. Be Humble; Avoid Boasting: Do you know boasting is a sin? St. James writes: “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:16-17). To boast is to assume you are greater than God. The truth is that: “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:1-2). Whenever you make any promise or plan to do anything, be humble enough to add “by the grace of God” or “If God permits.” In Psalm 20:7-8, we read: “Some boast of chariots, and some of horses; but we boast of the name of the Lord our God. They will collapse, but we shall rise and stand upright.” If you must boast about anything, boast of the name of God.

2. Be Humble; You Don’t Own Your Life: Today’s Psalm response taken from one of the beatitudes of Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). What does it mean to be poor in spirit? One of the verses of today’s Psalm answers: “No man can ransom a brother nor pay a price to God for his life. How high is the price of his soul? No one can buy unending life nor avoid coming to the grave.” Being poor in spirit is having the humility to know your life isn’t yours. Whether you are rich or poor, you cannot afford to live as if there is no God. No matter how careful you are, you cannot escape the grave. St. James asks: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14). The next time you feel like asking, “Do you know who I am?” remember this verse. In conclusion, let us remember the importance of humility and reliance on God's will in our lives, as it is the key to true spiritual growth and understanding.

3. Be Humble; You Are Not Deputy Jesus: When the disciples saw someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name, they did not wait to hear from Jesus before taking it upon themselves to stop the man. Their reason was simple: “He is not one of us; he hasn’t been properly catechesized.” They reported themselves to Jesus later, hoping that Jesus would clap for them, but to their shock, 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.” In other words: “Who asked you to stop him?” This teaches us that the name of Jesus is truly powerful. St. Paul writes to the Philippians: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11). We must avoid boasting as pastors (preaching to myself now). The miracle was not a result of my holiness, the volume of my voice, or any skills I may have. Anyone (even the worst sinner on earth) could have used the name of Jesus, and it will still work. Only Jesus deserves the praise.

4. Be Humble; If Not, Prepare To Be Humiliated: The disciples stopped this man because they couldn’t do what he was doing. Today’s Gospel passage is taken from Mark 9:38-40, but if you read Mark 9:14-29, you would see how a demon disgraced these disciples. When Jesus got down from the mountain and saw the commotion, he said: “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?” (Mark 9:19). Later that day, the disciples, with heads bowed in shame, asked Jesus: “Why could we not cast it out?” St. Paul concludes: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, deepen our humility to know that we came from dust and would return to dust. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.

Remember, amid all challenges, choose to be happy. Live with a positive mindset and believe in God’s plan for you. God bless you abundantly. (Wednesday of week 7 in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: James 4:13-17, Ps. 49:2-3,6-11, Mark 9:38-40).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu