The Spirit of God Blows wherever it wills
Readings: 1st: Nu 11, 25-29; Ps 18; 2nd: Jam 5, 1-6; Gos Mk 9, 38-43. 45. 47-48
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico. He is the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas, and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. He was the chancellor of the Diocese of Fajardo Humacao, Puerto Rico. Fr. Canice is a member of the Academy of Homiletics. For more details and comments contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, the twenty sixth Sunday of ordinary time, we thank God who freely gives his spirit to all men. Through God’s free gift, people of all nations can resist evil and manifest His true Spirit in their lives and actions. Today’s first reading and gospel are similar in many ways. They remind us that God can freely choose and equip whoever he wishes.
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In the first reading, we see men who remained in the “camp” prophesying in the power of God’s Spirit. In the gospel, we equally see men outside the fold Christ’s disciples preaching and casting out demons both in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ. Consequently, we see the zealous and envious disciples getting afraid and worried.
They were afraid that these men outside their fold whom the Lord chose and anointed with His spirit were threats to their mission and position. So, instead of seeing them as fellow workers in God’s mission, they became jealous and despised them. They thought that God’s spirit and mission solely belongs to them. Unfortunately, they were wrong.
Interestingly, Moses and Jesus refused to yield to the fears, jealousy and malicious request of their disciples to stop them. Being filled with the spirit of God themselves, they wisely discerned and knew that these men were genuine. Their mission is in line with the will of God, that all men may receive His spirit and preach the good news.
Hence, Moses responded, “If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets and, the Lord gave his Spirit to them all.” While Jesus told his disciples, “You must not stop him. No one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me.” So, for Moses and Jesus, it was a good development and they were against the spirit of envy and oppression.
So, today James warns against oppression, and injustices of all kind against the weak, the poor and those who God has freely chosen. This is especially, against those who do not belong to our, group, or class. We should not strangle the true spirit of God at work in them. Rather, we should help them to advance and grow physically and spiritually.
There are many lessons for us from today’s readings. First, God can choose and use anyone he wishes for his mission. Second, He gives his Spirit for the edification of his church. Third, nothing (not even the devil), can stop whoever God truly anoints for his mission. So, when Christ says that: “The gate of hell shall not prevail against the Church” (Mt 16:18), He means that the Spirit of God is upon His church. It shall last as long as God wishes.
Fourth and most important, we must not be jealous or envious of the gift of others. Rather, we should see one another (especially, those that God has truly called) as companions in God’s mission. At times, we (including priests, religious), are guilty of this capital sin.
We are often jealous of those that the Lord has chosen for a particular mission and need of His church to the extent that we try to strangle their mission and efforts. We do this by ignorantly thinking (as Saul did in Acts 9), that we are defending God and His Church.
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Surely, this is a bit tricky and difficult. Does it mean that every spirit is true? Certainly no, Especially, now that there are many false and self-made pastors, prophets and wolves in sheep’s garment. However, there is no cause for alarms! All we need to do is humbly and carefully, “discern every spirit” (I Jn 4:1). Christ’s standard of “by their fruits you shall know them” (Mt 7:16) must be wisely followed for this discernment. Also, the universal rule that, “not all that glitters is gold” must be diligently observed.
Finally, this requires wisdom and it is the Spirit of God that gives this wisdom. Only those who are filled, and are docile to the Holy Spirit can discern and distinguish between the true and the false spirit. So, we must be very careful not to despise those that the Lord has freely and truly chosen, and filled with his spirit for edification of his church.
Peace be with you!