26th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA
Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! The spirit of the Lord descends on two men who are not part of Moses' camp. The men begin to prophesy inside the camp. A young man – jealous for Moses’ sake – runs to tattle on them. Joshua, an old friend of Moses says, “Moses, my lord, stop them.” What's the big deal? What's Joshua worried about? He’s concerned that Moses will be dishonored by the men who prophesy w/o Moses’ authority. He's worried that there will be divisions in the camp – one side supporting Moses and another side opposing him. He's worried that these unauthorized prophets will lead the people astray. Joshua is anxious for his friend, Moses, and his reputation as the voice of God among God's people. What Joshua doesn’t seem to understand or accept is that the spirit of the Lord rested on these men and made them prophets. Moses corrects Joshua's mistake and comforts him, saying, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!” Would that all of us here tonight were prophets for the Lord. . .
Moses understands a truth that Joshua will not grasp: the Lord will rest His spirit where He pleases. On me, on you, on all of us, if He chooses to. And He will make us all prophets, if He chooses to. He will give each of us the job of prophesying, the job of telling everyone of His great deeds and His promise of mercy. Though we may have rules and job descriptions and personnel policies and human resource requirements, the Lord doesn’t. He sends His spirit as He pleases.
So, here’s my question to you: could you be a prophet, if the Lord chooses you? Could you go out and tell everyone about the Lord's great deeds, proclaim to everyone His promise of mercy? What does it take to be a prophet, you might ask. Well, it seems that you have to be really old. Lots of wrinkles, lots of gray hair, maybe a pair of glasses, a cane, and a hearing aid. Moses’ seventy prophets are elders, old guys with a great deal of accumulated wisdom. It also seems that you have to be male. Moses' elders are all men. So maybe the spirit of the Lord will rest only on old men. OK. You have to be old and male. What else? The big one, of course: you are not a prophet unless the spirit of the Lord comes to rest on you. Could you be a prophet?
Look again at the story from Mark. It’s almost a retelling of the story of Moses, Joshua, and the two unauthorized prophets. John finds out that there are people out there casting out demons in Jesus’ name – people not of Jesus’ camp! John tells Jesus: “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Just like the young man in the first story, John tattles to his teacher that someone not of their group is doing something that only members of their group should be doing! Jesus says basically the same thing that Moses says, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus teaches John (and us) that you don’t have to be a member of his small group of disciples to be a prophet. Anyone who does a mighty deed in his name is a prophet.
So, could you be a prophet? Remember what we said: only old men who have the spirit of the Lord on them can be prophets, right? WRONG! Jesus is clear: anyone who does a mighty deed in his name is a prophet. And what do prophets do but do mighty deeds in the Lord’s name. The job of the prophet is to tell everyone of the Lord’s great deeds and His promise of mercy. The Lord brings Moses and his people out of slavery in Egypt. He destroys the armies that chase them. He guides them though the desert. Gives them food and water when they have none. And brings them to the Promised Land. Great deeds! And He makes a covenant with them: you be my people, and I will be your God – His promise of mercy.
Our Lord Jesus does all of this again for us, for everyone in this church tonight. He brings us out of our slavery to sin. He destroys the power of the Enemy over us. He guides us through our deserts, all of our dry and troubled times. He gives us food and drink, his Body and Blood in the Mass. He brings us to the Promised Land of heaven. Great deeds! And he makes a New Covenant with us: I die for you so that you will not die; love me, love one another, teach and preach what I have taught you.
Go out and be prophets! Tell everyone of the Lord's great deeds and His promise of mercy. Learn your faith. Tell the truth to anyone who will listen. Learn you faith. Make life – thought, word, deed – an excellent example to others. Do not cause someone to fail in their faith b/c of your sin. Be careful here! Jesus tells his disciples: “Whoever cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Is this clear enough? We should never lead anyone into sin, we should never be an example of sin for others, we should never cause damage to anyone else’s faith. If you do, it would be better for you if you had a giant grinding stone hung around your neck and then tossed into the ocean to sink.
Your job as a prophet, as one on whom the spirit of the Lord has rested – that's what baptism and confirmation are all about – your job as a prophet is to tell everyone about your faith; about how Christ came into your life; about how you know and love the Lord; about how the Church is the Body of Christ; and about how the Lord uses his Church to bring all of his gifts to his people and the world. This sounds like a lot of work. Probably embarrassing work at times. It’s not always easy for us to talk openly to others about our faith. They may get offended or tell us to shut up or just walk away. True. They may do all these things. But prophets are often ignored or told to shut up or sometimes worse things happen. But you see, here’s the thing: the great deeds of the Lord and His promise of mercy must be told. Told and lived. Not just spoken again but done. The sick must be cured. The hungry must fed. The naked must be clothed. The imprisoned must be visited. Those enslaved to sin must know they are now free. Do these things. Tell others about the mighty works of God by doing these things yourself. St. Pope John Paul II, said over and over again to us, “Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid!”
In NYC yesterday, Pope Francis pointed to the “unnoticed,” those who go unseen, “the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity.” That Christ walks with us – his prophets – is a sign of tremendous hope. . .for us and the unnoticed we are sent to love. Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! We are. Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on us all! He has! Go and prophesy in the hope of Christ, “a hope which makes us see, even in the midst of smog, the presence of God as he continues to walk the streets of our city.”_______________________
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