Today’s first reading from Exodus narrates the experience of the Lord God coming to Moses. It tells us that “Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.” But the story continues to tell that the young Joshua, an aide to Moses, became agitated and upset that two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, had been missing from the gathering. In his mind, the two had no authority to prophesy, yet still they did. In this story, it would seem that the power of God and the outpouring of the spirit is not determined by human constraints. The community’s needs were met by those members of the community (the elders) who were serving the community, and this service was carried out in the name of God. Moses’ very practical response was to express his desire that everyone in the community would be willing to step up and do their bit, instead of relying on the few. This same theme of community service is also evident in the gospel. The reticence present in the community, is evidenced by the words of the disciple John. He’s concerned that someone who was not one of their inner circle was doing works in the name of Jesus. Jesus himself responds with a practicality echoing that of Moses in the first reading. So what does this mean for us?
In the recent stories in the media about the church, one of the common themes has been the need for laity to get more involved in church goings-on. For my part, I love that idea. More often than not I, along with other parish (lay) leaders, struggle to identify people to take on positions of leadership and responsibility in the parish. In terms of parish governance, I work alongside a gifted group of men and women who serve on the Parish Finance Council. Our Parish Pastoral Council is also comprised of dedicated men and women who have a love for the church. Their brief is a little more general and their focus necessarily broader than the financial oversight and planning. We recently developed a Parish Facilities Committee to plan for the ongoing maintenance and future development of our parish campus. I continue to have hope for a Parish Stewardship Committee, but this doesn't seem to grab people’s imagination. However, in consultation with people, even though everyone thinks it’s a good idea, finding the people to take it on isn’t always easy.
When we are baptized, we are all anointed with Sacred Chrism. The anointing is accompanied with these words: “As Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” These words serve both as a reminder of, and as a call to, the Christian life, with each of us living our particular part according to where we find ourselves in life. How we conduct ourselves in our relationships, our families, our workplaces, our efforts to make the world a better place… all flows from the baptismal calling. It also corresponds to (priestly) service, (prophetic) leadership and (kingly) governance with the good of our parish family in mind and heart. There is a strong theme in the writings of St. Paul: the gifts given to us by God are not for ourselves alone, but for the blessing of the world. This includes the community of faith that is our parish family. The Catechism speaks extensively on this matter, and perhaps it’s one we can reflect on for ourselves.
In what ways does God call me to be a faithful steward of the gifts entrusted to me by God? What gifts do I have that I can place in service of the parish? How do I best share my gifts for the good of the community? Have I shared with parish leadership my willingness to give of my time and talent? Do I discern my giftedness in the areas of service, of leadership and/or of governance? How can I best put my gifts and talents in service of God’s people?
In the life of our Church, this is not a time for reticence or for false modesty. This is a time for courageous service and visionary commitment. To paraphrase again the great Apostle, together we are all Christ’s Body, and individually we are part of it. Some are gifted as teachers, others as leaders, others as visionaries, others as managers, still others as worker-bees for the building up of the community. No one is gifted with all the gifts, but together we are gifted with all we need by the grace of God. (cf 1Cor 12:27ff.)