This Sunday’s readings challenge us to accept and respond to the manifestation of God’s Spirit in places we may not expect.
In the Book of Numbers, two men chosen as elders were not in a gathering where the spirit was given by God. The two who were absent received the spirit, but Moses had to “defend” their right to prophesy.
In the Gospel account, people who were not disciples had power to drive out demons and evil spirits in Jesus’ name. When John informed Jesus, he responded that those who were not against him, were on his side, even if they were not full disciples.
Today, God uses a variety of means to inspire us. It may be the good example of someone caring for the poor. At other times it might be an article or commercial that calls us to some virtuous act. And it may even be the bad behavior of someone through which God calls us to act differently. Recently a bus driver was badly treated by some students, and other people rallied to offer a sense of support.
Besides these sources of inspiration, there are also more formal learning experiences as we seek to understand the teachings of Jesus. Many claim to speak for God, but all have not been designated by God. So how can we determine what is “of God”? On the stage of life, it would be easier if the players were either completely good or totally evil.
I have several touchstones where I look for direction. The first is Scripture. Prayerfully reflecting on the passage and studying commentaries help me find the deeper meaning. And often, if the passage makes me uncomfortable, it’s a signal that it’s something to which I need to pay attention.
Another guide is the teaching authority of the church; for Christ promised the presence of the Spirit to guide the church in determining what is “of God.” In the areas of doctrine, faith and morals, the teaching authority of the church through the bishop and the magisterium has the authority of the Spirit.
A third source is the recent U.S. Adult Catholic Catechism. The text is written with biographies and examples, specific teachings in outline form, longer explanations and prayers related to various topics. Unlike the catechism of our youth, this one is designed for adult understanding and includes more complete explanations.
Even in our searching we are all good at selective reading. So I have to be sure to look at the full teaching of the church, not just in those areas in which I easily agree or feel comfortable. I need to be concerned about protecting all of life. In promoting justice I need to look at all the areas, especially just or unjust actions in my own behavior. It’s like the reading this week from St. James. I can’t simply say, “I’m not wealthy, so the second reading doesn’t apply to me.”
In the midst of looking to do the good, to learn the truth and to live the full Gospel, we spend a lifetime observing, listening, studying judging, praying and acting.
Sr. Rehrauer is the diocesan director of Evangelization, Living Justice and Worship.