Once upon a time, a black man was entering a music concert that was strictly by invitation. The attendant at the entrance could not allow him to enter even when he showed his invitation as he needed to verify if it was the real one. Upon verification, the attendant discovers that it was not just authentic but also indicates that the man has access to the VIP which has a reservation for only six persons.
The attendant reluctantly allowed the black man in while wondering in his mind how he was able to get a special invitation for an all-white concert. Entering the concert hall and walking towards the VIP seating, people kept staring at the man and whispering to each other. At the VIP, the other five special invitees who were all white felt very uncomfortable, and one even dared to walk up to him to tell him that the stand is reserved for some special people, the man did not reply but only showed him the VIP invitation card.
Before the formal opening of the concert, the organizer, a well-known singer, comes out to make a special speech. Towards the end of the address, he remarks that the show is dedicated to a man who doubles as his music coach and foster father. The man who adopted him and brought him to North America when his parents passed in a motor accident in Europe. Pointing at the black man, he says, “here is the reason why the world knows me, he does not look like one of us, but he produced one of us.” As the black walked up to the stage, the ovation was high, and many people were in tears.
You don’t need to be Catholic like me to go to heaven and I don’t have to be like you to become relevant in life. Diversity is part of the beauty of life, and we do not choose it. Therefore, it is a gift from God. If we take a reflective look at the time of creation, we could see that God had diversity in mind as he made different living creatures. And when God saw that it was not good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18), He created another human being that is biologically different from the man following His program of diversity.
The First Reading (Numbers 11:25-29) we learn that after Moses appointed seventy elders to assist him, God took some of the spirit on Moses and bestowed it on the seventy elders and they prophesied. Now, the turning point of the narrative is that two of the elders who were not in the assembly with the rest when they prophesied also prophesied in the camp. When a young man saw Eldad and Medad prophesying, he runs to tell Moses about it, and Joshua suggested that he stops them.
The passage tells us that they were seventy on the list and God had decided to share Moses’ spirit on them without conditions. From the human point of view, only those present in the assembly should receive God’s spirit and thus have the legitimacy to prophesy. The question the young man did not ask was “what prompted them to prophesy in the camp and at the exact time the others were prophesying in the gathering?” The young man seemed to be telling God that he made a mistake by reaching out to those who went out from the gathering; those who ceased to be one of them!
We see a similar situation in the Gospel Reading today (Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48) where John reports to Jesus that they saw someone driving out demons in his name and they TRIED to stop him because he was not one of them. Here we see the “not one of us” mentality playing out very profoundly. Notice that they tried to stop the man, but they could not just like Joshua in the First Reading could not get Moses to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying in the camp. Nobody can stop whatever God has put in motion; don’t even try.
Moses and our Lord Jesus Christ give similar responses to their respective reporters. Moses says he would wish that all the people were prophets and besides he has no control over the spirit that the Lord bestowed upon them. On the other hand, our Lord Jesus Christ maintains that no one who performs mighty deed in his name can at the same time speak ill of him; hence whoever that is not against him is for him.
We live in a world that is inundated by imaginary dividing lines between those who belong and those who do not, between the insiders and the outsiders, between the rich and the poor and other trends of distinctions. There is a difference between diversity and discrimination. Diversity is a divine gift, but discrimination is a human convention borne out of ignorance, arrogance, and insecurity.
God’s invitation to us as his children is inclusive and not exclusive. Because of this premise, we are invited to discard all those things that set us up as ingroups and outgroups. That you are not like me does not make you better than me or the other way around. Christianity is an inclusive invitation to all people irrespective of culture and geography to share God love for humanity through the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Moses and our Lord Jesus anticipated inclusive Christianity following their respective responses. In another place, our Lord Jesus Christ maintains that he has other sheep which belongs to another sheepfold (John 10:16). God has the ultimate judgment, and we have no right to say who does it better than other or we run the risk of repeating the mistakes of the insensitive rich in the Second Reading today ( James 5:1-6), who discriminate against the poor but who would experience impending miseries. As we march into this Sunday, may we continue to discard all the lines of segregation that make us feel better and more privileged than others.