September 30, 2012
WOULD THAT EVERYONE PROPHESIED!
I am running a bit late with my usual Sunday reflections, both in English and Tagalog. I have been busier over the past weeks on account of class preparations, a series of seminars and talks, two retreats to preach, and personality evaluation reports of seminarians to write, on top of the usual tasks I am wont to do.
I write from Tagaytay in between talks to a big group of highly motivated and enthusiastic volunteer Church pastoral workers. Leading them to do small-group share-ins, does not take much on my part. They take to it like fish to water. In fact, my problem is how to stop them and have me process what they shared in their respective little groups.
We priests and preachers do not have the monopoly of the Spirit. That much, seems to be clear in the first and third readings. Moses, Spirit-led surely as he was, knew better than to prevent Eldad and Medad from prophesying in the camp.
Nowadays, the world at large, and, a fortiori, the Church, too, is in rapid flux. The Catholic journalist, John Allen, says a lot about what he calls the “ten megatrends” in the Church. One of these is the rise of what he calls “evangelical Catholicism.” Among other things, this refers to a more lay-inspired and lay-led Church that will, on the surface, kind of undermine the “kingly”role (traditionally understood) of the ordained ministers like me. Parishes and traditional institutional Church structures will no longer define the pastoral and spiritual life and nourishment of many people. Social entrepreneurs, cum preachers will figure in prominently in the landscape of the lived faith of many people.
I can understand the well-meaning “clerical envy” or pastoral worry of the followers of Moses. Eldad and Medad were kind of “pulling the rug from under the feet” of Moses. I can understand, too, the solicitude of the disciples who came anxious to the Lord saying: “We saw someone driving out demons in your name.”
But putting all this worry and clerical envy aside, it cannot be denied that the world, at large, is a hungry world, an expecting world, a world waiting for answers, for meaning, in the midst of so many pressing and complex problems that have to do with equally “mega” trends such as massive environmental collapse as seen now in the undeniable patterns of climate change (despite the avowed denials of ultra rightists who are notorious for sticking to the status quo of business-as-usual).
One thing that stands out clear from the readings today, at least for me, is this. One cannot stifle the Spirit. One cannot put His inspirations into a box, and hold Him hostage to structures and a stale system characterized by a stunted, stilted, and stumped “pecking order” of sorts. Whilst it is true that salvation comes only from God, mediated by a divine and human institution all at one and the same time, the process of redemption of each and everyone stands in need of all the help it can get, from ministers other than the Eldads and Medads of our times, or the upstart disciple who came across to the others as an eager-beaver who went a little overboard, by their standards.
Would that everyone prophesied! Would that all in and outside the institutional Church got stricken by the ministerial flu of zeal for the Kingdom!
As a priest, I am overwhelmed at times. I cannot manage to keep up with the many questions posed to me in Facebook and other means. People who have been long-time members of the Church rely on me in order to answer the same oft-repeated “questions” (they are actually more like accusations, or an opportunity to pick a quarrel or engage in a fruitless debate!), that, you would have hoped they could very well answer for themselves. But for the most part, many lay Catholics are very well schooled in sacramental spirituality, but not in “evangelical” spirituality. Many of us are very well sacramentalized but poorly evangelized (or poorly catechized!), in such a way that just about everyone bandies about the oft-abused statement: “My conscience is clear!” And by that, what they really mean is, “my choice is clear” (clearer than Sprite!) or “my preferences are clear.” It is nothing else but conscience as an “event” – a judgement, and conscience as a “habit” and as a “process” has really gone out the window of relativism and personal preferences.
I salute all the lay people (some of whom are former students) and lay colleagues who take up the cudgels for God and His Church. They do their part to defend the Church for both fair and (mostly) unfair bashings that come her way on a daily basis. Sometimes, they put up a gallant fight, as you and I know, that in the case of some clerics, their behavior and behavior patterns, are downright indefensible.
I address myself to all lay people who still love the Church despite us and despite our sometimes bad examples. The Church needs you. God’s message of salvation needs all the help it can get. We need to all help God save us. We need lay people like you to help us in the ministry of teaching all women and men the Good News of salvation.
Would that everyone prophesied in God’s name!