Note: As we approach our third year of posting Fr. Brian’s homilies here at Leaven in the World, we’ll be trying out a slightly lighter publishing schedule for Fr. Brian (to both preserve his sanity and to make sure my own writing muscles don’t atrophy!). While Fr. Brian will continue to provide the majority of the weekly posts, I will begin filling in for his off weeks. We hope you continue to be blessed by our online ministry! Today marks the first of my own reflections on the Sunday readings.
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time | September 26/27, 2015
Before reading on, you can take a look at the readings here. This reflection focuses on the first and Gospel readings.
The degree to which I am a control freak has been alluded to previously on this blog (see here), so it probably comes as no surprise that I kind of sympathized with the young man and John (from the first and Gospel readings, respectively).
Here they were — they’ve put in their time, done what they’re told, they’re sticking close to the guy in charge. Of course they’d have a problem with these random people claiming that God was also working through them. Who were these people anyway? Eldad and Medad didn’t even bother showing up to the meeting, and the guy John tried ratting out didn’t even follow Jesus! Surely, God wouldn’t work through anyone who didn’t know how to follow directions. Surely, God wouldn’t work through someone who didn’t have the right credentials, who wasn’t part of the inner circle.
And yet, both readings are pretty clear that God did just that — God’s Spirit came to rest on those who were not in the gathering. God performed miracles through someone who was not one of Jesus’ followers.
For someone who is an OCD rule-follower like I am, this is the type of stuff that drives me crazy (I’m sure Jesus is laughing and shaking his head at me right now). A God who colors outside the lines, who ignores what’s expected or fair. A God whose unpredictability and unbridled generosity is attested to throughout Scripture. Just a glance at the Gospel from the last couple of Sundays points to a God who relishes reversals and turning things upside down:
- Whoever loses his life will save it
- If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last
- If you want to know God’s reward, give something as simple as a cup of water away
It’s a theme that’s revisited time and time again in Jesus’ parables about the prodigal son (cf. Lk 15), the vineyard workers (cf. Mt 20).
So what are we to make of this?
One thing’s certain. If I’m not mindful of my propensity to obsess over the rules like the Pharisees, it would be very easy for me to get hung up on the seeming unfairness of it all (kind of like — well, exactly like the prodigal son’s older brother).
If I’m not careful, I would lose sight of the whole point of these glimpses into how God works — which is the limitless, unpredictable generosity of God. Whenever we presume to know how God operates, how things ought to be done is a sign that it’s time to re-examine the filter through which I see the world and realize that we are all in need of God’s generous mercy — each of us, at one point or another, is the prodigal son, the last worker to show up, the one whom the world considers out of bounds and undeserving of God’s generosity.
It is only when I am able to see the world through the eyes of compassion and devoid of judgment that I am able to truly appreciate the God who has a place for everyone at the table, the God whose Spirit will even work through someone who didn’t show up at the big meeting.
I love Moses’ sentiment at the end of the first reading:
Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!
Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!
And this, friends, is the Good News — that we now live in a time that this sentiment has come to pass. The same Spirit that came to rest on the seventy elders is the same Spirit that grafted every Christian into the life and Body of Christ at their baptism. And it is by virtue of our baptism that each of us shares in the threefold mission of Christ as prophet, priest, and royalty. Each of us is called to be a prophet, the voice of God in the lives of those around us, to speak on behalf of God especially in defending the voiceless and the powerless. This generosity that has been extended to each one of us — the very life of God’s own Son — is meant to be spread and shared so that the kingdom of God might grow thirty, sixty, a hundredfold (cf. Mk 4).
And so I leave you with several questions to mull over as you start your week:
- As a baptized Christian, how does your life reflect God’s calling for you to be prophet, priest and royalty? How is your life an extension of God’s unbridled generosity in the world?
- At the end of this week’s Gospel, Jesus used hyperbole to drive his point home — if there is anything in your life that is preventing you from fully entering into the life that God has called you to, then let it go. Are there stumbling blocks in your life that are keeping you from experiencing God’s best for you?
- What are different ways (both literally and figuratively) that you might give someone who is thirsty a cup of water?