“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.
St. James in today’s first reading warns us against the vice of boasting in our personal efforts and plans. As St. James puts it, we tend to make plans for the future as if we are in charge of our own lives when in fact, we do not even know what tomorrow holds.
This calls for humility on our part; the realization that we are not in charge of our own lives but mere dependent creatures. Yes, we are dependent on God. Recall, Jesus himself said we are branches while he is the vine and cut off from him, we can do nothing. Tomorrow doesn’t belong to us neither does it belong to those who make the best plans.
Hence, as the Psalmist says: “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 up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:1-2.
It is indeed a mark of arrogance for us to beat our chest and boast as though we are gods. The word “arrogance” for me is a combination of “ignorance” and “pride.” When you do not know something but think you know it and you want to shut everyone else down, you are just being arrogant.
As James admonishes us, whenever you are making any plan at all, ensure you involve God first and foremost. And bear in mind that no matter how solid your plans may be, they amount to nothing without God’s support. So begin by saying: “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” Always have the humility to realize that the will of God and not your own will must prevail.
In today’s Gospel passage, the disciples of Jesus reported how they found a man who was not even a disciple of Jesus casting out demons using the name of Jesus. They forbade him for “practising without a licence” but to their surprise, Jesus condemned their actions. He said: “Do not forbid him…” in other words, “the fact that he is not one of us does not mean he is our enemy.”
This episode teaches us that there is SO MUCH POWER in the Name of Jesus that it really doesn’t matter who is using the name; the name itself works. As St. Paul would say: “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 2:9-11.
Indeed, if we must boast at all, there is only one name we can fully rely upon; it is the name of God. Only God deserves such high level of confidence and trust.
Truly, it is not the person who uses the name but the name itself that matters. If a man who did not belong to the Apostles could use the name just because of his faith, why do I think I must first be ordained in other to call on that name with faith?
Secondly, we learn that the fact that a person works miracles in the name of Jesus does not mean he belongs to GOD. We should not get carried away into worshipping people simply because God is working through them. If at the time of Jesus, someone could be operating his own church by the side without even an atom of training, we should not be surprised today to see millions of churches here and there. That miracles happen does not mean a person is holy or a saint or some supernatural human being, it only means that God still answers prayers.
Let God have the glory he truly deserves. Let us stop focusing attention on the person being used by God. Nowadays, you hear people say things like “help me thank the God of Pastor so, so and so” … “praise the God of Fr. so, so, so.” We treat men and women of God like gods yet we show no respect to God himself. This is the irony of our time.
Thirdly, the reaction of Jesus tells us the mind of God regarding division among Christians. Jesus would not let his disciples forbid the man because he didn’t want them to tag this man as an enemy. We must learn to accept and love our fellow Christians even if they do not belong to our church, even if they do not accept our doctrines. Jesus was on the side of religious tolerance. We too should be tolerant.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, teach me to humble myself always and love my brothers and sisters regardless of church affinity.
*Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Wednesday of the 7th Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: James 4:13-17 and Mark 9:38-40).*