What is it about being in control? I mean, society tells us that we need to be in control of our lives and we make it happen. I think people have always had innate desires to be in control as we will see shortly in today’s reading from James and also echoed in the Gospel today from Mark. Our present time, however, presents even more challenges in things that fuels and encourage our desire to control. A co-worker was telling me about a new bit of technology that will allow him to control almost anything in his house from his phone. Even he admitted that this might be overkill. This example seems trivial but it shows just how far control has gone. People must have desired this or it probably would not have been made in the first place. We are told we are supposed to be in control of our careers, our finances, and our reproduction. When I was young we watched television shows when they came on. No VCR or DVR. The stations had control of what and when we could watch.
Is having control always wrong? No, I don’t think so. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 speaks of discipline and control
Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
Control, kept in the proper context is a good thing when we order it toward God and his will for us through discernment. I was raised being told to be in control. My journey as a disciple has been one of releasing control of my desires to those of Christ. The early Christians struggled with this also. They had been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and they were off to make those plans a reality. Yes, it even happens in the church. We have plans and we are ready to move toward but if the plan is not in accord with God’s plan, he will make a course correction for you.
Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town,
spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”–
you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.
You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.
Instead you should say,
“If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.”
But now you are boasting in your arrogance.
All such boasting is evil.
So for one who knows the right thing to do
and does not do it, it is a sin. James 4:13-17
James, today reminds us that God is in control and that we do not know what our day will hold or when our life will end. So, some planning and taking control is good but be aware of the Holy Spirit, alive and active in our lives. If we are docile to the Spirit he will guide us and we will walk in his ways. The Gospel reading today depicts Jesus with his disciples and they are trying to control how things are done and Jesus straightens them out.
John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.” Mark 9:38-40
As a Catholic, I know that I am part of the original church founded by Jesus Christ. I am happy and proud to be Catholic, however, I have to be careful to not shun or look down on my Protestant brothers and sisters who are doing great things for Christ. We do not need to water down our beliefs in order to have respect and admiration for what they are doing in the name of Jesus. If we take the time to visit with them we might even get some good ideas.