26 SUNDAY B 2012
“Does God confine the gift of his Spirit to authorized channels?” That is the question raised in today’s Gospel. The first reading ties in very closely with a theme in the gospel about tolerance of others and celebrating the good anyone accomplishes.
We are told the story of how, at the command of God, Moses gathered the elders together so that God could bestow the spirit of prophecy on them. Two remained in the camp and so were not present when the Spirit came yet they also began to prophesy. Joshua was angry and wanted Moses to stop them. But just like Jesus in the Gospel story Moses does not stop them.
This preoccupation with status and confining the things of God to those who are members of an inner group is one of the most common dangers that has beset the Catholic Church down through the centuries. Vatican II, fifty years ago, recognized how the role of the laity had been undermined through the centuries.
Today we commonly call it clericalism. Clericalism is preoccupied with the power of the priesthood and the status this confers upon them. Clericalism tends to believe that God only works through established ecclesiastical structures. This attitude will effectively disempower the laity.
The Spirit given to the whole Church, is the meaning of the Feast of Pentecost. Each Christian has his/her own particular outpouring of the Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism and Confirmation. We are therefore all gifted with God’s grace; we are all commissioned to bring God’s Word to others and we are all exercising responsibility within the Church.
Ministry is what we are about as Christians. It is the task of each one of us to serve our brothers and sisters. We are all of us disciples and it is the responsibility of every single one of us to make God’s Good News known to the world. It is the responsibility of us all to minister to our brothers and sisters in the human family, especially to those in need.
“Jesus, someone outside our little circle is using your name to cast out demons. Stop him immediately!” But Jesus says, “Don’t even try to stop him. After all, he is helping us. Since he is not against us, he must be on our side.”
Not much has changed in the religious psyche since the time of Jesus. Long ago, some countries were so Catholic that joining another religion was unthinkable. We enjoyed a monopoly. There was no need to shepherd the flock since they had nowhere else to go. The leaders were not attentive to the building of community. Everyone was baptized but a small percentage attended worship.
Then along came people who drew in Catholics by listening to their cares, forming them into communities, sharing authority and wealth, binding wounds, feeding hungry mouths, sharing God’s Spirit.
Pentecostals were drawing members from mainline churches, and we bemoaned this fact. Evangelicals boast of going way back to the original Gospel. These folks gather individuals in the old fashioned way: by helping each other, listening to each other’s experience of God, creating community and caring for the poor.
Catholic leaders complained that their flocks were being “poached”. Why are they surprised that people would be attracted to that kind of religion? It makes more sense to imitate their success story.
There is a letter to the editor in last week’s Georgia Straight Newspaper responding to “Breaking Vancouver’s Lonely Culture” article, which spoke of lack of trust, social isolation and corrosion of caring. “For myself, after many years of searching, my experience of loneliness ceased when I came into the Catholic Church. In that moment, I entered into the company of a worldwide community of believers that stretches back two thousand years. I felt at peace because the Catholic Church’s answers to the profound questions confirmed the answers I had discovered on my own, but took them to a much deeper level. (He speaks of the gift of the sacraments and). When I prayed to become a more caring person, I was given a love for others that I had never felt before.” Peter Nation
Today’s reading from the book of Numbers makes it clear that prophecy, the carrying of God’s message to the world, is not the special task of only a few people: "Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!" If only all Christians felt a commitment "to bring God’s pardon and God’s kingdom to all we meet!"
Last Friday five of us from Sacred Heart listened to Ryan from PhoenixArizonaspeak about an initiative the Diocese will be taking this fall: CATHOLICS COME HOME. He said “It doesn’t take a theology degree or a doctorate in philosophy to qualify as a spokesperson for the Lord. It is just a willingness to share our faith with others.” It just takes a humble and contrite heart, an openness to hear God’s voice in prayer, and a desire to share what God tells us with others. You don’t need to be an eloquent speaker, and you don’t need to have every element of the Christian faith perfectly mastered. This is A YEAR OF FAITH IN THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH
Speaking prophetically doesn’t always mean speaking dramatically. It just means learning the humility and trust necessary to listen to God and to let him speak his word through you.
The Gospel takes this point a step further. Not only must God’s truth be spread through all of God’s people; it must also be spread by those who are "not of our company." VaticanII recognized that there is truth in all the world’s great religions as well as in its secular institutions, for as Jesus declared: "Anyone who is not against us is with us." We might think "Anyone who is not WITH US IS against us."
We tend to live in closed circles of people because of comfortableness, like-mindedness, and shared values and beliefs. Jesus challenges us to "cut. . . off" from our manner of living any attitudes or behaviors that keep us from recognizing God's presence in a broader circle.
The work of the church is to overcome evil and build up the reign of God. To co-operate with the plan of the Creator for a world of justice and healing. Anyone who is trying to accomplish this goal of community, of the family, and the dignity of the individual and the respect for the earth is worthy of support.
Wherever we find others whether outside the camp or not who are doing good we must celebrate that. God is surely free to work outside of our familiar religious structures. This doesn't mean that such structures are unnecessary or unimportant.
Jesus rejoiced with his open-minded acceptance of all the good works and all the good people who are bringing God’s kingdom about.
Two practical things we can do : Take Metro Vancouver Alliance training & Engage in