Debra Trees, ARCWP, and Julie Corron, ARCWP, led the Upper Room liturgy with the theme: “We are God’s Priestly People.” Deb’s homily reflection is below the readings.
First Reading. Numbers 11. 25-29.
YHWH came down in a cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the Spirit that was in Moses, God bestowed it on the seventy elders whom Moses had gathered there; and as the Spirit came to rest on them, they were seized with prophesying, and did not stop. Now two other elders, one named Eldad and the other Medad, were not in the gathering but had stayed behind in the camp. They had been summoned to the tent, but had not gone; yet the Spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp. When a youth came running to tell Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” Joshua, ben-Nun, who from youth had been Moses’ aide, cried, “Moses, stop them!” But Moses answered, “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all of God’s people were prophets! If only YHWH would bestow the Spirit on them all!”
These are the words from the Book of Numbers and the community affirms them by saying AMEN.
Gospel Reading from Mark 9:38 - 43
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to expel demons, and we tried to stop it since this person was not part of our group.” Jesus said in reply, “Don’t try to stop it. No one who performs a miracle using my name can speak ill of me soon thereafter! Anyone who is not against us is with us. The truth is, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not go without a reward.
These are the words from Mark and the Community affirms them by saying Amen.
Deb’s Homily Refection
“We are God’s Priestly People” is a pastoral letter, authored by Bishop Emeritus Howard J. Hubbard of the Albany, NY Diocese. During his tenure as bishop from 1977 to 2014, he encouraged the people of Albany to be responsive to their calling as Catholic Christians. This call to live out our baptismal vows, to participate actively in our Christian life, and to include people from other faith traditions, was evident in the ecumenical environment that we have here in Albany. Authentic Leadership calls us to be active in our religious life, and to live in the spirit.
Moses and Jesus lead the way for their people, helping others to understand that Spirit is not only for a few, but for each of us to experience and reflect in truth and love. Moses is helping his long-time supporters to allow others, not obviously entitled but clearly given access to the Spirit, to express their lived experience. Moses understands and wants the Spirit to be shared. The same is true for Jesus. The disciples of Jesus are concerned that someone other than the official followers of Jesus is performing works in the name of the Spirit. Where is their concern focused?
Barbara Reid, in Abiding Word, Sunday Reflections for Year B, titles her writing on this Sunday’s readings: “True Authority”. She notes, “It is curious that in both instances, those who want to be officially recognized ministers are sadly focused on a perceived threat to their own authority, rather than on the recipients of the ministry.”
To me, we as human beings do not have the knowledge of what YHWH will do, and where our actions will lead. It is not always easy for a leader to share the load, and the glory. It is not always easy to hand off when it is time.
In reflecting on these readings, one might say the singular focus is to realize that all of us are “God’s Priestly People”. But what about the other focus… Are the actions of others bringing about God’s love and spirit in the world? From where does the authority come?
Jesus points to a simple act, providing a cup of water to the thirsty in God’s name, as an authorized act of ministry. As Reid notes, “Jesus directs his disciples to reflect on the ministry they receive from others. When they know themselves as needy they can learn… to shift their attention from credentialed ministry toward the neediness of [others].”
These are interesting concepts for today, in a time when leadership is challenging, and it is more important for all of us to step up and let spirit work in our lives. It is our responsibility to let the Author of our lives work through us, and our responsibility to receive with grace the ministry of others and do no harm.
I echo Barbara Reid’s questions to us for this week:
1. When have you experienced a healing word or touch from one who was not an authorized minister?
2. How does the process of authorizing ministers safeguard the church – and I would add, all of God’s creation?What did you hear? What does it mean to you? What will you do about it?