Dear friends. One of the things I love about being a priest is that you are in a great position to do a lot of good. By this I mean not only the good you can do as an individual but also the good you can do for others in a way that multiplies the good. For some of my time in Rome, I taught student priests and religious who came from all over the world. These were the future leaders of their Churches. It was a tremendous privilege to able to teach those who would teach, to lead those who would lead and serve those who would serve. The point is that it’s not just about the good we do ourselves but the mission that comes first where the good is multiplied and others are brought to faith in Christ and become missionaries themselves.
In the first reading and the Gospel for this Sunday, we find two groups of believers. With the first group, we are told that the Lord took some of the spirit of leadership that rested on Moses and gave it to the seventy elders. Two of these were not with the group when this happened but still received the same spirit. Then, out of jealousy, two of the group complained that this was not right. In response, Moses exposes their narrow mindedness and replied – ‘If only the whole people were prophets and the Lord gave his spirit to them all’. In other words, ‘stop thinking that you control God’s spirit or are an elite group in God’s eyes. The more people receive the gift of the Holy Spirit the better’. Something similar happens with the Apostles in the Gospel. They see a man who is doing good but they try to stop him because he is ‘not one of us’. But Jesus said: ‘You must not stop him…anyone who is not against us is for us’.
With these words, the Lord is taking us to the heart of why Christianity would spread so fast after his resurrection. Jesus started with a small group. He knew them, taught them, formed them, gave them his spirit and then sent them out to do the same for others. As this went on and on, the Church spread around the world as the good was multiplied. And in this vision of mission, any form of elitism or jealousy does not serve to advance but to block the success of the mission which always come first.
So what then are the things that can block the success of our mission today? Mainly fear or thinking we don’t have a mission in the first place. We come up with excuses to keep our heads down and keep quiet. Here are some of our favourites: ‘I’m not worthy’ – response? You are right, none of us are! But God declares us to be worthy, he chooses us despite our limitations; ‘I don’t know my faith well enough’. That might be true but share what faith you have. Try to know your faith better and to love it more. The more you love it the more we will want to share it; ‘I don’t want to do it, I’m afraid to admit I am a practising Catholic because of ridicule from my friends’ – to this fear the Lord says: ‘Do not be afraid. You shall be my witnesses. I will be with you always’.
Friends, whenever we come up with theses excuses not to be missionaries, we frustrate the dream of God stated in the first reading: ‘If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets!’ If only we all knew the gifts we have received! If only we realised how much we are loved! If only we knew how much God invites us to missionaries by bringing his love and truth out into the world as his witnesses! It is time for all of us to step up in the Church at this time. It is the mission that matters. Christ needs us to carry on his mission and to multiply the good. This will take leadership and courage on the part of all. On the day we were baptised and confirmed, we received the same spirit of courage and leadership. It was given to be used. Don’t be a passenger. Be a leader.