A bright child Perhaps no one else in history has done more to serve the poor than St Vincent de Paul. He is venerated by both the Catholic and Anglican communions.
He was born in 1581, in the village of Pouy, to peasant farmers (despite the aristocratic-sounding name). From a young age he showed a talent for reading and writing. When he was 15 his father sold the family’s ox to pay for Vincent to attend seminary, where he spent two years, before going to the University of Toulouse.
The college was riven by various factions to the extent that an official was murdered by two students. Vincent was ordained at 19.
Enslaved in North Africa
In 1605 he sailed from Marseilles and was captured by Barbary pirates, spending two years imprisoned in Tunis. He was then sold to a fisherman. His next owner was a physician, and Vincent learned much from him. After the physician died Vincent was sold to a former Franciscan who had become a Muslim. The man became remorseful and was persuaded to reconvert, escaping back to France with Vincent.
From 1612 Vincent served the Gondi, an illustrious family from Paris, and it was the Countess de Gondi who persuaded her husband to endow the priest’s work for the poor.
Freed to serve the poor
In 1617 Vincent founded the Ladies of Charity, which ransomed 1,200 Christian slaves. Later he ran the Congregation of the Missions – priests devoted to poverty, chastity and obedience – and spent the rest of his 43 years working for the poor. He was canonised in 1737.
Keep Faith in Jesus
MARK 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man who was driving out demons in your name, and we told him to stop, because he doesn’t belong to our group.” 39 “Do not try to stop him,” Jesus told them, “because no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able soon afterwards to say evil things about me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us. 41 I assure you that anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to me will certainly receive his reward. 42 If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied round his neck and be thrown into the sea. 43 So if your hand makes you lose your faith, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand than to keep both hands and go off to hell, to the fire that never goes out. 45 And if your foot makes you lose your faith, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot than to keep both feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye makes you lose your faith, take it out! It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell. 48 There ‘the worms that eat them never die, and the fire that burns them is never put out’.”
Other readings: Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19:7, 9, 11-13; James 5:1-6
Jesus surprises his disciples yet again. Apparently someone was casting out demons in Jesus’s name. The disciples tell him to stop because he is not one of their group.
Jesus surprises them by telling them not to stop him. The reason Jesus gives is very practical: someone performing miracles in his name could hardly turn round later and speak against Jesus’s ministry. We’re not really given many details so do not know why this person was not more closely connected with Jesus’s disciples. However, Jesus makes it clear that kindness shown to one of his disciples because they are following him will certainly be rewarded.
Jesus then turns his attention to the seriousness of sin. He gives a strong warning to those who cause the young to lose their faith in Jesus (verse 42).
Jesus sums up his teachings by saying: don’t allow anyone or anything to cause you to lose faith in me. He emphasises the importance of this by repeating it no fewer than three times. It’s a matter of life or death, heaven or hell. We must keep our lives clearly focused on Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
What reasons do you think the disciples might have had for stopping the man casting out demons in Jesus’s name?
What does this passage teach us about how we should deal with temptation and sin? Do we take it as seriously as God does?
What can we learn about our responsibility to others, especially to children concerning their faith in Jesus?
As we read and reflect on Holy Scripture, it changes us. The Holy Spirit helps in this transition. The verses from Psalm 19 help us to focus on obeying God and keeping free from sin. As you ponder the psalm allow time for the Holy Spirit to open up areas that need to change. If we confess our sins God promises he will “forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing” (1 John 1:9).
In Numbers 11:25-29 we learn that Joshua reacted in a similar way to the disciples when someone did something he didn’t consider was right. Moses, like Jesus, took the opposite view. We know from previous readings that God is more concerned with our heart’s attitude.
James 5:1-6 is a warning to people who put their trust in their earthly wealth and who exploit other people. God will judge them. Selfish and loveless actions by Christians may well cause others to lose faith in Jesus and the Church. Our personal behaviour must reflect Jesus; thoughtless words and actions can have a significant impact on others.
Mgr Anthony Abela
Lectio divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word. These outlines for the Sunday Gospel readings are published by the Bible Society. Download at Biblesociety.org.uk/lectio.