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The Alphabet of Lent – Letter X

X for xenophobia

A word that, you have guessed, is not found in the texts of the gospel.
But the reality to which it refers is really there, and Jesus has addressed it openly.
It is about a scene which is perhaps less known, but it has an important message for us (Mark 9:38-40).

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name
and we told him to stop,
because he was not one of us.”

Some of us – many of us perhaps? – would react as John did.
John was known as the disciple Jesus especially loved…
Yet, he still needed to learn an important lesson from his Master.

We may feel uneasy at John’s initiative.
To forbid someone to drives out demons in the name of Jesus is not an attitude that is without consequence.
What prompts this act, the motivation that inspires it, is reprehensible.
Jesus does not fail to correct his apostle:

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said.
“For no one who does a miracle in my name
can in the next moment say anything bad about me,
for whoever is not against us is for us”.

A definition of xenophobia, easy to understand, describes it as hostility towards strangers.
In other words: we keep at a distance from those who do not belong to our own group.

Those people are not from among us, and we do not want them to meddle in what concerns us!
Their way of speaking, their manners, displease us.
We suspect them, we consider them ‘strange’ – are they not precisely ‘strangers’?
It can even be that, secretly, seeing them different from us, we may judge them… less good than we are!

The words of Jesus remain as appropriate in this 21st century as they were in the first century:
“Whoever is not against us is for us”.

A lesson that we need to learn and not only as regards religious practice.
Social relations, group interactions, daily meetings –
it is our whole human interaction that must be inspired by the teaching of Christ.

He expects no less from those who call themselves his disciples…


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34th Sunday of Year B, Feast of Christ the King – 2021

He came, long ago, but some still speak about him.
What he said, what he did, what he taught, how he related to people.
It was said that: “Nobody ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46).
He was… different, yes, everyone could see this, different yet…
There was something about him that drew people to him.
He did not look for glory or fame, no, he was concerned about others.
One day, they had tried to make him king (John 6:15) but he had escaped –
this was not at all what he had in mind.

Brought before the authority, he told a Roman procurator why he had come to our world (John 18:33-37):
“The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.
Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

If he came back to our world today…
If he came back, would he repeat these words?
Would he find people ready to listen to his voice?

He would be all too aware of:

the fake news,
the unfounded revelation of presumed facts,
the systematic distortion of evidence,
the prevailing disinformation,
the exaggeration of narratives,
the manipulation of witnesses,
the bias of some medias,
the misrepresentation of events,
the falsification of documents,
the attempts to pervert justice…

“Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Would there be some?
Would we be among them, no matter the cost?

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at:


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