Speak Lord: Help us speak, help us listen

Detail of Bema, Old Synagogue, KazemierzThe first reading at Mass today – the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – comes from the book of Numbers.  It is a somewhat obscure narrative about the establishing of a cohort of elders to relieve Moses of some of the onerous work as leader of the people. But the main interest in the passage is provoked by two characters, named but otherwise obscure, who act in ways which attract criticism, and yet act in a way approved, and indeed enabled, by God.

The Lord came down in the Cloud. He spoke with Moses, but took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the spirit came on them they prophesied, but not again.

Two men had stayed back in the camp; one was called Eldad and the other Medad. The spirit came down on them; though they had not gone to the Tent, their names were enrolled among the rest. These began to prophesy in the camp. The young man ran to tell this to Moses, ‘Look,’ he said ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Then said Joshua the son of Nun, who had served Moses from his youth, ‘My Lord Moses, stop them!’ Moses answered him, ‘Are you jealous on my account? If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!’

Numbers 11:25-29

Perhaps the calling of the 70 is to be understood to be a prefiguring of teh ‘elders ‘ of Israel, even of the Sanhedrin. And clearly this is a matter of some abiding significance for Israel, and yet the attention of the passage is on the absent two, and the agitation this causes. Charism and institution are in tension, even charism and habit, even as new institutions find validation in charism (the elders prophesy, but we are told not again.)

The reading is chosen for the Liturgy of the Word because of its echoing the gospel passage for today from Mark which tells of the disciples mistrust of and antipathy towards others who place store by the name of the Lord, but are not of their number. As so often, they must have wished they’ve kept quite, so powerfully does Jesus challenge them about their own shortcomings! Likewise the young man in Numbers, and certainly Aaron.

Pope Francis in a speech this week suggested that all good leaders must follow Moses and Jesus in not defending their territory and power, but looking for ways to lead all to the good.

A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

  • What power do you have?
  • Are there times when you know you could do more good by relinquishing power or sharing it more widely?
  • What helps you do that? What holds you back?

Bring your reflections to God in prayer.

Detail of Bema, Old Synagogue, Kazemierz, Cracow, Poland. (c) Allen Morris, 2013.

Speak Lord: Of new beginnings.

Samaria II

The gospel today, the 15th Sunday of the Year, focusses on the mission of the 12. Mission did not begin with them and the first reading at Mass today reminds us of the prophet Amos.

Bearer of a profound critique of Israel, Amos was no willing prophet, nor welcome in Israel. But he served the Lord, faithfully and well.

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’

‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”’

Amos 7:12-15

Amos had two jobs, sheep and trees. Now he had a third – reminding Israel of its true nature, of being a communion of people with God. It had no independent existence. Did not need its national king, it’s national Temple. God alone sufficed and more than sufficed. And without God all else was petty and transient. And so it proved. Israel fell and was lost.

Today’s Gospel has the 12 – noble in their vocation and trust, but scarcely in their economic state or social position, sent out to recover a people for God: by God to help his people heal and be reconciled. They are more succesful in their mission than Amos was!

  • In whom do we trust?
  • How do we know?
  • Would others agree?

The image above is not of remnants of Bethel but of Samaria, another Israelite Royal cultic centre against which Amos prophesied. Here is a 19th Century image of the believed site of the city of Bethel.

Bethel 1894 DanielBShepp


Taste and See: The Lord was close and is closer yet.

Disobedient objects

The Collect at Mass yesterday rather simply and effectively covered a number of the themes in the readings of the day


O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy,
for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
you bestow eternal gladness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Abasement, humiliation, rejection; the mission to save and restore to life; the promise of love and happiness.

  • What particular reading, or part of a reading struck you yesterday?
  • Why?

Photograph of quotation displayed at Disobedient Objects, an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.