“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them.” This text is taken from TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [NUMBERS 11: 25 – 29]. Make a careful and thoughtful reflection on all the verses of this extract from our scripture. Then ask yourself whether or not there is a vital lesson for the contemporary Church to learn? Let us recall what Saint Paul teaches – “Every inspired scripture has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, or for reformation of manners and discipline in right living.” {2 Timothy 3: 16 & 17} All of these matters require accountability and transparency.

Now, add words from TODAY’S PSALM [19] – “The judgements of the Lord are true … in them your servant finds instruction; great reward is in their keeping. But who can detect their own errors? … From hidden faults acquit me. From presumption restrain your servant; may it not rule me. Then I shall be blameless, clean from grave sin.”If the relevance of the points made above mean little or nothing then perhaps some words of Jesus recorded in all three of the Synoptic versions of the Gospel- GOOD NEWS might reverberate. “So do not be afraid … there is nothing covered up that will not be uncovered, nothing hidden that will not be made known.” {MATTHEW 8:17) “For nothing is hidden unless it is to be disclosed, and nothing put under a cover unless it is to come into the open. If you have ears to hear, then hear.” {MARK 4:22 & 23} “For there is nothing hidden that will not become public, nothing under cover that will not be made known and brought into the open.”

In all of this we need to make ourselves aware of a hidden but pertinent message relayed by our NEW TESTAMENT READING [JAMES 5: 1 – 6]. This speaks to us of the need for strict justice in the manner in which we deal with those who live and work ‘in the fields’. “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord.” Finally we must take to heart and mind the words of TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 9: 38 – 43. 45. 47 – 48]. At the start, our Gospel extract clearly links with the Old Testament reading. “Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me.” In addition, with a series of similar examples, we hear – “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off .. .”

The Holy Spirit is a gift to, and personal presence in, the CHURCH, the whole People of God. It is not only given to a select few. The seventy elders who gathered with Moses enjoyed a special role and ministry, but not of status or power. The two people who remained “in the camp” received the same gift – for the same purpose. Their ongoing contributions, wisdom and discernment were not to be relegated into something inferior or unworthy of serious and genuine consideration. Pope Francis has consistently warned the ordained Church leaders of the destructive danger of clericalism. The integrity, value and worth of those “in the camp” must never be trivialised. The ‘seventy elders’ must ensure this does not happen. However, the laity must accept their responsibilities and become seriously involved in the holistic challenges of the Church as well being eager to fulfil their authentic role. They must not flinch or go to ground.

All of us, elders and ‘campers’, must become fully involved in the eradication of the present and existing boil in the Church. The boil must be lanced – and every one of us must be aware of our responsibility to become involved in both the lancing and eradication. If this endeavour is taken seriously, the Church will emerge stronger, more effective and authentic.

The Church is facing a crisis of grave proportion. It has lived through worse and will live through this one. The Lord Jesus, together with the Spirit, is with us. We have to live in the present. It is in the present that the Church must always be reformed. However the present crisis must be neither minimised nor trivialised.

In the immediate past two weeks I was asked to present to a parish group an overall view of Mark’s version of the Gospel. Here it may be helpful to reproduce (a repeat for those who may have been present) three of the points emphasised in the opening session. Firstly, Albert Camus (the French poet and author) once wrote that “in the middle of my winter I discovered an invincible summer.” Secondly, a contemporary novelist writes that “to deny one’s life experience is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.” {SALLY VICKERS: Cousins: Penguin Books: page 290) Finally, I reflected on “the value of the present. Staying in the present is vital. If we do not live in the present, we live in unreality – spending half of our existence in worry, and the other half in regret, preoccupied with what has not yet happened, or weeping for that which no longer exists.” The present is time for change and action.

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