Some of you may recall the reflection presented for the 15th Sunday of the year? Therein you would have read the need for the Church to have prophetic voices in our own age!

Well, some may have thought this was a little dramatic? If so, have a look at both OLD TESTAMENT [NUMBERS 11: 25 – 29] and GOSPEL [MARK 9: 38 – 43. 45. 47 – 48] readings for this Sunday.

The Book of Numbers tells us of Moses’ wish “that all the Lord’s people were prophets,” and the Gospel has the Lord saying “do not forbid him … for he who is not against us is for us.”

Then, it is worthwhile noting that Moses questions the motives of Joshua, and clearly imputes dishonourable motives to that good man. “Are you jealous for my sake?” Then, in the Gospel extract the reason given for forbidding is that the unexpected ‘prophet’ is outside the established structure: “because he was not following us.” I have no doubt that here also jealousy was involved.

Even at this early stage we should be able to recognise the existence in the Church of a preoccupation with STATUS and POWER? In far too many cases the preserving of these elements becomes the objective – and the good of the Church entirely secondary.

However, these two pieces of scripture make it clear that both Moses and Jesus had a much wider vision and hope for the good of God’s People.

In a recent article about prophets {THE TREFOIL : # 279, 2012} Father Nicholas King, SJ, writes that the prophets “are not all cut from the same cloth. by any means,” and he makes the observation that all of us, including “those who wield religious authority, … have to realise that my personal experience is not by itself a guarantee against going off on some demented tangent.” Nevertheless, there does exist a “religious experience” in those who belong to the faith-tradition involved. There is a need (for the good and enrichment of the Church) to make known our own individual faith / religious experiences. Father King goes on to write that “the absolutely essential thing is that I should be forth-telling. … We need our prophets and must learn to listen to them, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem to be.”

We all have religious experiences and insights into matters with which the Church needs to be concerned. These experiences and insights MUST be shared, discussed, and evaluated with an open-hearted readiness to learn, evolve and progress. {this is one of the great values to be found in faith / scripture sharing groups when a stage of honest exchange has been developed.} It is in this context that THIS SUNDAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [JAMES 5: 1 – 6] should not be limited in application to the rich in material possessions. Such an approach makes it too easy to escape the personalchallenge. Power and status are also possessions which, too easily, become rusted and moth-eaten, and, all too frequently, kill the righteous man. Never forget that the cries of the labourer“have reached the ears of the Lord.”

What must never be forgotten is the fact that he “who is not against us is for us.” Here, some words from TODAY’S PSALM [19] have great value. “From presumption restrain your servant.” Be wary of the presumption that you are right and everyone else is wrong. This maxim applies to both sides of the equation, and – therefore – needs the existence of honest, transparent, exchange and dialogue.

In addition, the Psalm goes on to proclaim the challenge “who can detect their own errors? From hidden faults acquit me.” However, to be acquitted we must be able to recognise there is a fault!

We must all learn to share our insights, and – when necessary – cast out demons(sometimes from ourselves!). Some things need to be cut off – especially those matters which cause us to sin. We must all learn to bring out, as the Gospel tells us elsewhere, things both old and new.

Sharing our own individual insights is not always easy. This was the experience – is the experience – of all prophets. BUT PROPHETS WE MUST BE!