Fanaticism, fundamentalism, intolerance, sectarianism, partisan integration, intransigence, proselytism, relativism, syncretism, dialogue, openness, mission… The Word of Christ in today’s Gospel sheds light on a great number of words which today abound in the jargon of many people and mass media, and who, in various ways, discuss about topical religious and political themes. Christ takes the opportunity of the excessive zeal of the apostle John and of other disciples who had forbidden to a man to cast out devils in the name of Christ: “because he was not one of us” (v. 38). Jesus intervenes and tells them: “You must not stop him” (v. 39). In a similar circumstance also Moses (I reading) intervened against the request of his jealous collaborator Joshua, because Moses was hoping not for a limitation but for a greater effusion of the Spirit of the Lord on his people: “If only the whole people were prophets!” (v. 29).
Joshua and John – the latter rightly deserving the nickname of “son of thunder”, as Jesus himself calls him (Mk 3:17) – have, unfortunately, many a follower in all cultures and religions. To prevent and to forbid, verbs that are dear to Joshua and John, are not the verbs accepted by Christ who does not desire to forbid anyone to do good and to speak words of truth (v. 39). Joshua and John’s reaction is the classic temptation of all fundamentalist movements and narrow-minded people. The fear of what is different on account of origin, culture and religion, etc., provokes feelings and attitudes of intolerance, exclusion and rejection. In some political parties and circles a xenophobic attitude has come to consider a different person as a criminal for the simple reason that he is an immigrant, a migrant, a refugee and a clandestine person.
It is worth noting the reason John puts forward: “We stopped him because he was not one of us” (v. 38). “John does not say that the man does not follow Christ, but that he does not follow them, the disciples, revealing thus that they were deeply convinced to be the only and unquestioned trustees of what was good. Christ belonged only to them, they were the only point of reference for anyone who wanted to invoke His name and felt annoyed that someone was performing miracles without belonging to their group… The group pride is very dangerous: it is subtle and makes appear as holy zeal what is just disguised egoism, fanaticism and inability to admit that good exists also outside the religious structure one belongs to” (Fernando Armellini).
Here come into play missionary values of great importance. Salvation and the possibility of doing good are not the monopoly of a chosen class of elects or specialists, but a gift of God, generously offered to all people who are open to good and make themselves available to be bearers of love and truth to others. The Spirit of the Lord is given us freely, but not in an exclusive way: no one, no religion may claim to have the monopoly of God, of his Spirit, of truth or love. Jesus’ reply (v. 39) would not be different if the person doing good were a Muslim, a Rom or someone rejected, imprisoned and drug addicted. Jesus would give the same answer that he gave to John, even if the person addressing him were a Muslim, a Buddhist or whoever. It is a statement which does not take away anything to the truth that Christ is the only Lord and the founder of the Church, but rather it underlines the universal missionary radiation.
For a correct understanding of this point, it is necessary to avoid two extremes: one extreme is the fanaticism and intolerance that does not acknowledge other truths except one’s own; the other extreme is the relativism that does not recognise anything as definitive and leaves everything in a weaker and more confused state. Gandhi used to say: “The truth is just one, but it has many facets like a diamond”. According to Christian doctrine, Jesus, the Word of the Father, is truth personified and incarnated, from Whom proceed the seeds of truth and love present in the whole world: they proceed from Him, they are reduced to Him. Only through the twofold movement of centrality in and radiation of Christ it is possible to overcome the dangers of partisan integration and relativism. (*) Evangelisation is based on the possibility of dialogue. Missionary zeal, if properly understood, has nothing to do with fanaticism, but rather it has to do with a joyful and respectful proposal of a life experience. Always with respect for peoples’ freedom, the only missionary journey in the spreading of the Gospel consists in the joyful witness of faith and love for Christ.
The Pope’s words
(*) “To have a clear faith, according to the Creed of the Church, is often labelled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism… appears to be the only attitude that is abreast with the times. The world is moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires.”
Card. J. Ratzinger Mass ‘pro eligendo Pontifice’, Rome, 18 April 2005
In the missionaries’ footsteps
- 27/9: St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660), French priest, founder of the Institute for the Mission and the Daughters of Charity for the formation of clergy, parish missions and the service to the poor.
- 27/9: World Tourism Day, with this year’s theme: “Tourism, a celebration of the diversities”.
- 28/9: St. Lorenzo Ruiz, from Manila, and his 15 companions (priests, religious and lay people), killed at Nagasaki (Japan, 1633-1637), after evangelizing the Far East.
- 28/9: Bl. Niceta Budka (1877-1949), bishop, born in Ukraine, missionary in Canada among the Catholic of Byzantine Rite; died in a concentration camp at Karadzar, Kazakistan.
- 28/9: Birth of Confucius in China (551 B.C.).
- 29/9: Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Rafael, servants of God and his messengers to mankind.
- 30/9: St. Jerome (347-420), priest and doctor of the Church, contemplative and penitent, illustrious commentator and translator of the Bible; died at Bethlehem.
- 30/9: World Day for Street Children.
- 1/10: St. Teresa of the Child Jesus (1873-1897), Carmelite in the monastery at Lisieux (France), doctor of the Church; main patron of the Mission. She is the daughter of Blessed Louis Martin (1823-1894) and Zélie Marie Guérin (1831-1877), French spouses, beatified on 19.10.2008 at Lisieux.
- 1/10: International Day for the Aged (ONU-OMS, 1990).
- 2/10: Bl. John Beyzym (1850-1912), Jesuit priest from Volinia (Ukraine), missionary among the lepers at Fianarantsoa (Madagascar).
- 3/10: BB. Ambrose Francis Ferro, priest, and 27 companions who were martyred (+1645) in Natal, Brazil.
Compiled by Fr. Romeo Ballan, MCCJ - Comboni Missionaries (Verona)
Translated by Fr. Henry Redaelli, MCCJ
Website: www.euntes.net “The Word for Mission”