26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (30 Sept.)

Numbers 11: 25 – 29. James 5: 1- 6, Mark 9: 38 -43, 45. 47-48

As I pondered the scriptures for this Sunday, a song came to mind, that I often sang when living in New Orleans. It goes like this:
All over the world, the spirit is moving,
all over the world as the prophets said it would be.
All over the world there is a mighty revelation, of the glory of the Lord,
as the water covers the sea.

Quite simply the readings tell us that God’s Spirit is moving, alive and active in the world. That the Pentecost event of the sending of the Spirit, is still ongoing. That everyone, aware of it or not, is a prophet and has the Spirit working in their personal lives.
These readings are full of encouragement and intrigue. The encouragement is the assurance of God’s spirit, while the intrigue is the presence of jealousy and rivalry mentioned in two of the readings.

In Numbers 11:25- 29, we read that the Lord, spoke with Moses from the Cloud. This is a fulfilment of God’s word to Moses that he should help in the government of Israel. Not only does God’s spirit speak to Moses but also to the seventy elders. These elders were recognised in their leadership positions as being worthy of receiving the same Spirit as Moses. They spoke to the people of the things of God. Now two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, were not there; they stayed back in the camp, praying, preaching and praising God, and spoke as they were moved by the Spirit. God’s Spirit is not confined to one place, like the wind, it blows where it wills. But the Spirit found them in the camp and their names were enrolled among the rest. They began to prophesy and instruct the people.

What an instructive narrative, that the Spirit finds us where we are. Eldad and Medad,
speak to me. They represent all of us who search, who desire God, who live ordinary lives and speak the truth from our hearts. They are humble prophets not looking for recognition, but clearly leaders in their own right.

Now what is intriguing is Joshua who asks Moses, “My Lord, stop them”. Moses answered him, “Are you jealous on my account? If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!” Joshua does not desire that they should be punished, but only restrained for the future. This desire he made out of zeal for what he through to be the unity of the church. He would have them silenced, lest they should occasion a schism, or might even rival Moses.

In the gospel Jesus shows annoyance over the same issue. He rebukes his three chosen apostles for the same attitude, “for anyone who is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:4)    Like Moses, Jesus takes a stand.

We don’t have to look too far to recognise jealousy in the church today. Pope Francis has been a shining example recently, by being silent in the face of criticism and ridicule. His silent response comes from a heart that discerns the working of the Spirit ongoingly, and knows when to speak and when to refrain from speaking, as the Spirit moves.  All over the world the Spirit is moving. We are all called to be prophets.

We give thanks for the prophets in our lives; for couples, whose children turn them into parents, for grandchildren, who create grandparents, for teachers who change the world through their students and friends who transform us through their belief in us and their listening to us.

We praise and thank God for all the prophets: men and women of every nation and creed who manifest the Spirit in their lives.

Fionnuala Quinn O.P.

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