26th Sunday: The Grace of Our Eldads and Medads
Most of the people here have been faithful Catholics throughout their lives. They have attended Mass weekly from their earliest days. They have lived moral lives and searched for ways that they could serve God in others, particularly in their families. Most of the people here do not just go to Church on Sundays, they pray everyday. As human beings they fall, but they also rise up again through the sacraments. Most of the people here are very happy to be members of the Catholic Church. They see how the Holy Spirit continually works in the Church. They look towards Blessed Mother Theresa and Blessed Pope John Paul II, and see God’s presence. They witness the determination of Catholic Relief Services and the Campaign for Human Development to care for the poor and see God working. They’ve been disappointed and saddened by those priests and religious who have not been faithful to their vocations, but for every one who has caused scandal they know of hundreds of others who have been dedicated servants of the Church. They know that the Catholic Church is the original Christian Church and has been faithful to Christ for two thousands years.
But then they also see how the Lord is working in other faiths. So many determined Christians of various religions, so many faith filled people who do not confess Jesus Christ, are living for God, serving Him in the poor. This Lutheran congregation is determined to reach out to the homeless. That Jewish community has established care facilities for sick and destitute people of all faiths. They recognize the spiritual leadership of Dietrich Boenhaffer, Mahatma Ghandi, and Martin Buber. They see how God worked through Billy Graham; how he reaches out to others in song through the Pentecostal group Hillsong United. They see how a middle aged Tony Dungy and a young Tim Tebow use their athletic prowess as stepping stones to proclaim the Lord.
And they know that the Spirit is alive and well in the world working through those within the Catholic Church, and those within the universal Church who themselves do not share in the seven sacraments or might not even believe in Jesus Christ.
Eldad and Medad were not in the tent. They weren’t present with the 70 who received the Spirit back in the days of Moses. Yet, Eldad and Medad still received the Spirit. “Stop them,” Joshua said. “Why?” asked Moses. “Would that all the people shared in the Spirit.
Some man was baptizing in the name of Jesus. He was not one of the Twelve. Perhaps he heard Jesus speak and wanted to spread the Gospel. “Stop him,” the Twelve said. “Why?” asked Jesus. “He is doing good work.”
We are graced to live in the age of the Spirit. This wonderful time began when The Father and the Son sent the Spirit upon the world. He is the Spirit of God. He is the action of God. He transforms the world by working in the hearts of all good people. And thus, in the Vatican II document, The Church in the Modern World, the Catholic Church declared that all who are open to God, who are following their consciences are themselves, in fact, members of the Church, saved by Jesus Christ.
Eldad and Medad may not have been in the tent. But the Spirit still empowered them.
Just as the Spirit empowers that husband who had been away from the Church for years, who mocked all things good and holy, but who, when he looked at his first born, said that he needed to change his life. He returned and returns daily. He continually asks forgiveness for the time he was away. Now, he is leading his children to God. The Spirit has given his life meaning and purpose. Like Augustine he grieves, “Late have I loved thee.” And like Augustine he has learned that God never stopped loving him.
Eldad and Medad may not be in the tent, but the Spirit still empowers them.
Just as the Spirit empowers that woman who had two babies by two different men, and an abortion due to another man, and now, through bitter tears and daily repentance, has chosen God. She works diligently caring for those who also tread the path of death she had been on, for those who have offended against the dignity of Christianity as she had offended against life.
The Spirit is present in the Church. Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament. But the Spirit is also present where we, foolish human beings with our feeble attempts to limit God’s power, least expect to find Him.
Eldad and Medad, the man baptizing in Jesus’ name. No one can harness the Spirit. He is God, the action of Love that has been unleashed upon the world through the Gift of the Father and the Sacrifice of the Son.
We thank God today for the wonders of the Holy Spirit, in our lives, in our parish and in the world.